The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian shares plunged to their worst performance in eight months yesterday, wiping $49.6 billion from the boards as markets sold off worldwide.
The S and P/ASX 200 index closed 166 points, or 2.7%, lower at 5883.8 while the broader All Ordinaries fell 170.4 points to 5993.4 following a poor session on Wall Street.
US shares sold off heavily ahead of the start of earnings season, with the three major stock market indices falling more than 3%. The NASDAQ Composite was the worst performing, falling 4.1% as tech stocks plunged.
"Although there was no particular trigger for the meltdown it appears investors were locking in gains ahead of a number of key market events over the next 36 hours," said CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy.
"The highest ever US earnings expectations and potential macro negatives are the likely sell drivers. Tech stocks and market darlings were most affected. The sell down comes ahead of the US quarterly corporate reporting season which gets into full swing tomorrow night with Citigroup, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo [reporting]."
There was some good news for precious metal exposed investors, with gold producers among the handful of stocks to close the session in the green. Resolute Mining closed 2.5% higher at $1.02, St Barbara rose 6.3% to $3.73, Regis Resources advanced 2.9% to $3.85, Saracen Mineral Holdings lifted 3.1% to $2.01 and Evolution Mining closed at $2.88, up 6.3%.
Oil exposed stocks were some of the biggest weights on the market yesterday as the price of crude fell for a second session.
BHP Billiton led the losses closing 3.8% lower at $33.40, Woodside Petroleum lost 3.6% to close at $36.65, Santos fell 5.6% to $6.97 and Beach Energy went down 6.8 % to $1.85.
Meanwhile, holdings in global gold-backed exchanged traded funds and similar products fell by 23.7 tonnes to 2329t in September - the fourth consecutive month of falls - equivalent to $932 million in outflows.
This, in addition to a drop in the gold price of 1.1% during the month, pushed assets under management in US dollars down by 2.3% relative to August.
• Holdings in European funds fell by 10.2t ($379 million, 1.0% assets under management).
• Funds listed in Asia decreased by 6.5t ($253 million, 7.7%).
• North American funds saw outflows of 6.1t ($258 million, 0.6%).
• Other regions saw a reduction in holdings of 1t ($44 million, 3.5%).
Overnight, the gold price was fixed at $1222.55 an ounce.
The WTI crude oil price was down overnight at $70.89 per barrel.
In softer commodities, cocoa increased $9 per tonne or 0.43% to $2097/t yesterday from the $2088 in the previous trading session, tradingeconomics.com reported. Historically, cocoa reached an all-time high of $4361.58/t in July of 1977 and a record low of $211/t in July of 1965.
Coffee increased 1.30c per pound or 1.16% to 113.20c/lb yesterday from 111.90c/lb in the previous trading session, tradingeconomics.com reported. Historically, coffee reached an all-time high of 339.86c/lb in April of 1977 and a record low of 42.50c/lb in October of 2001.