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Market Meltdown: Worst Day For Aussie Stocks Since GFC

The Australian stock market has shed nearly six percent - or about $120 billion - as ongoing coronavirus panic and an oil price plunge hands the bourse its worst open since the global financial crisis. 

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 dropped 339.8 points, or 5.47 percent, to 5,876.4 by midday on Monday, while the broader All Ordinaries index was 350 points, or 5.57 percent, lower at 5,937.5.

Both major indexes had earlier hit their lowest levels since February last year, shedding as much as 5.7 percent during the morning as Monday's losses wiped $120 billion from the market.

More than $440 billion has been lost from peak-to-trough since the bourse hit an all-time high of 7289.7 points on February 20 - just three weeks ago.

Losses over that period are close to 20 percent, which represents the threshold of a so-called bear market.

If a 5.5 percent loss is sustained through to the close of trade, it would be the worst day for the ASX/200 since October 16, 2008, when the world was in the throes of the GFC.

The energy sector endured its biggest ever intraday percentage slump, falling by as much as 19 percent, after Saudi Arabia slashed its oil prices in a bid to gain market share from Russia.

Goldman Sachs warned that the price of Brent crude could hit as low as $US20 a barrel.

Qantas shares have lost more than 8 percent in morning trading. Image: AP

Woodside Petroleum fell 18.35 percent to $21.54 , Santos lost 25.37 percent to $5.00, Origin was down 14.58 percent to $5.80, Oil Search was 29.96 percent weaker at $3.565, and Beach Energy slipped 21.82 percent to $1.29.

The materials sector was also a major casualty, with Rio Tinto down 7.08 percent to $80.14, BHP down 11.91 percent to $28.355, and Fortescue Metals down 10.47 percent to $20.66.

Gold added rare lustre to the market as investors flocked to the safehaven precious metal.

Evolution Mining was one of the beneficiaries, gaining 4.02 percent to $4.63.

Newcrest Mining enjoyed a gain of 5.98 percent to $30.82, and Northern Star added 3.18 percent to $14.92.

All four major banks were more than four percent lower, with NAB shedding 6.1 percent to $21.92 and Westpac down 6.0 percent to $20.07.

Commonwealth Bank shed 4.4 percent to $70.68 and ANZ lost 5.6 percent to $20.90.

Macquarie lost 7.43 percent to $122.13.

Airlines were also among those to suffer significant falls.

Qantas lost 38 cents, or 8.15 percent, to $4.28. Air New Zealand's price fell eight cents, or 4.02 percent, to $1.91, while Virgin lost 3.45 percent to $0.084.

The supermarkets did not fare quite so badly.

Image: Getty Images

Coles lost 43 cents, or 2.74 percent, to $15.27. Woolworths suffered only a 31-cent loss, or 0.82 percent, to $37.69.

Caltex, Qube, and the Rea Group all went ex-dividend on Monday, and their share prices were down between 3.4 percent, and 8.7 percent.

The S&P 500 index in the US had on Friday posted its 10th decline in 12 sessions as moves to contain the virus crippled supply chains and prompted a sharp cut to global economic growth forecasts for 2020.

The Aussie dollar was buying 66.12 US cents, up from 65.96 as the market closed on Friday.