Headline indices of the Australian stock market declined on Thursday, 11 April 2019, as risk sentiments subdued amid the latest signs of caution from global central banks about slowing economic growth. Meanwhile, selloff fueled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing the general election would be held on May 18. Most of ASX sectors declined, with shares in financials, healthcare, and materials issues being notable losers. Around late afternoon trade, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index declined 18.34 points, or 0.3%, at 6,205.20 points, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 17.46 points, or 0.28%, at 6,299.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reiterated warnings on Wednesday that global risks continue to batter the region's economy as the ECB signaled no rate hikes for the rest of 2019, shortly after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sharply downgraded its economic growth forecast for the euro zone economy. Interest rates on its marginal lending facility and deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0%, 0.25% and -0.40%, respectively.
On Tuesday, the IMF slashed its forecast for global economic growth this year, saying a slowdown could force world leaders to coordinate stimulus measures. The world economy will grow 3.3% this year, down from the 3.5% the IMF had forecast for 2019 in January, the fund said Tuesday in its latest World Economic Outlook. The IMF also sharply downgraded growth in the euro zone. It now expects the bloc to grow at 1.3% in 2019 — lower than its forecast had been six months ago.
The central bank's Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to not raise its benchmark rate at the March 19-20 gathering, and simultaneously indicated that it didn't see likelihood for any hikes through 2019, according to minutes from the session released Wednesday. Minutes from the Federal Reserve's March 19-20 meeting said some policymakers under certain circumstances could judge it appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate modestly later this year. The Federal Reserve's decision in March to cease raising interest rates this year was driven by unease over the U.S. and global economies and surprisingly subdued inflation.
Last month the Fed aborted previous plans to keep raising a key short-term U.S. interest. Instead, Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the Fed would remain “patient,” with the central bank's closely watched “dot plot” pointing to no increase in interest rates for 2019.
Financials were lower, with all four of the big banks in the red. ANZ declined 1%, Commonwealth fell 0.8%, NAB dropped 0.8%, and Westpac shed 1.3%. Bank of Queensland (BOQ) tumbled 5% after announcing its first half results, showing cash earnings slip 8% to A$167 million while net interest margins (NIM) fell 3bps to 1.94%. BOQ's interim dividend has also been cut with the bank blaming that on a “challenging revenue and cost environment that BOQ and the industry face.” Insurance Australia Group (IAG) shares eased 0.7% on news proceedings have been filed against the insurance group and its subsidiary Swann Insurance in the Federal Court of Australia.
Shares of materials lost ground on a mixed session for base metal prices overnight, with BHP down 0.6%, Rio Tinto down 0.9%, and Fortescue Metals down 1.2%.
Whitehaven Coal was up 2.1% despite the miner lowering its production guidance for fiscal 2019 after a 3% drop in March quarterly production.
CURRENCY: The Australian dollar was up against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The Australian dollar was quoted at 71.63 US cents, up from 71.48 US cents on Wednesday.