The ASX stumbled on Wednesday, with miners selling off after a plunge in the copper price depressed sentiment around the sector.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index declined 25 points, or 0.4 per cent, to end the session at 5946. The broader All Ordinaries lost 26 points, or 0.4 per cent, to end the session at 6030.
The Australian dollar traded at US75.79?? after falling sharply following a slightly softer-than-expected GDP print for the third quarter of 0.6 per cent, with the annual rate also coming in slightly below economist expectations at 2.8 per cent.
"The data are consistent with our view that while growth will be strong in coming quarters thanks to LNG and business and government investment, wages and household spending will need to lift in order for these growth rates to be sustained," said NAB's economics team led by Alan Oster.
Tying the the recent business strength together with the equity market, Citi's Australian equity strategist Tony Brennan noted that business conditions have been reported as being considerably above average.
"All of which should mean diminishing earnings risk," Mr Brennan said, while forecasting the benchmark ASX 200 measure will end 2018 at 6400 points.
"Across sectors, the largest improvement has been in mining, but construction and manufacturing have both also picked up, and in fact all sectors have been reporting conditions above average, apart from retailing."
Miners had a bad day on Wednesday, weighing the index down after a spectacular drop in copper prices in London overnight.
Majors trading lower included BHP, which was lower by 2 per cent to $27.20, Rio Tinto, down 2.5 per cent at $68.83, South32, down 4.1 per cent at $3.24 and Newcrest Mining, down 1.6 per cent at $22.88.
Smaller companies that saw their share prices pounded included Orocobre, down 5.4 per cent, and Western Areas, down 5.3 per cent.
Most banks managed a bit of a bounce from the royal commission concerns that have kept the sector under pressure since last Thursday.
ANZ rose 0.7 per cent to $28.24, Westpac climbed 0.5 per cent to $30.97 and NAB rose 0.3 per cent to $29.46. CBA was down 0.2 per cent at $78.60.
"Sentiment toward the banks and the political uncertainty seem to have been factors holding the market back," noted Mr Brennan.
TPG shares ended the day up 1.3 per cent after the telecom reiterated 2018 financial guidance given in September, although shareholders gave the telecommunications provider its first strike over executive pay.
Godfreys jumped 6 per cent to 44 cents after a Mexican fund manager based in Guadalajara spent almost $250,000 buying extra shares in the ailing vacuum cleaner retailer in late November - just before its profit downgrade.
Wattle Health is set to resume trading tomorrow and is understood to have struck an Australian distribution agreement with a large pharmacy chain to bolster the brand in its home market.
- With wires
Slater and Gordon
Slater & Gordon shares rallied 13 per cent to 5 cents a share after shareholders voted in favour of the embattled law firm's recapitalisation plan. Almost 70 per cent of votes at the firm's annual general meeting in Melbourne on Wednesday backed the plan which will see hedge funds led by New York-based Anchorage Capital assume control in a debt-for-equity deal. Chairman John Skippen said recapitalisation was "essential for Slater and Gordon to avoid insolvency" and the only way to secure a future for the firm and its stakeholders. They agreed to a 1 for 100 share consolidation with the aim of writing off the firm's debt pile.
Bitcoin passed $US12,000 for the first time amid speculation that the widespread use of futures will help lead to digital currencies being viewed as a legitimate asset class for mainstream investors. The largest cryptocurrency by market value has soared from less than $US1000 at the start of the year as optimism climbs for the distributed ledger technology known as blockchain that is at the heart of bitcoin. The price surge has been accompanied by a growing chorus of warnings that the speculative frenzy is an asset bubble poised to burst.
Copper futures were at $US6543 a tonne after the metal recorded its biggest drop in two years in London on Tuesday night. Benchmark copper closed 4.2 per cent lower at $US6542 per tonne in London, after touching its lowest level since October 5 at $US6533.50. The metal, which is widely used in power systems and construction, fell by the most in one session since July 2015. The hammering of base metals was linked in part to some strength in the US dollar, which makes commodities priced in the greenback more expensive, in addition to a shifting opinions around Chinese demand for the metal.
The Australian dollar has been on a rollercoaster ride in the past few sessions, rising sharply on Tuesday after retail sales data before falling back on Wednesday morning after third-quarter GDP data missed economist forecasts. "With today's accounts also confirming a benign broad-based price environment with still subdued leading indicators, the RBA is likely to sit on its hands for some time and monitor key data and developments," said RBC rates strategists. "To our mind, these data are the suite of labour market indicators as well as the global backdrop and global central banking stance." The dollar was trading at US75.79 cents in late Wednesday trade.
Samsung gets heavy
Samsung Heavy Industries plunged the most on record in Seoul trading after forecasting surprise losses and announcing a share sale plan, all of which underscored the bleak outlook for the global shipbuilding industry. The world's third-largest shipbuilder said Wednesday it plans to raise 1.5 trillion won ($US1.4 billion) by selling new shares in a rights offering. Samsung Heavy, saddled with 3.3 trillion won of short-term debt, expects demand for new vessels and offshore projects to continue shrinking and that will push the company into losses this year and next, compared with analyst estimates for a profit. The stock fell 28 per cent in Seoul.