May 3 (Reuters) – Australian shares on Wednesday marked their worst day in almost seven weeks, as risk-averse sentiment forced investors to sell banking and energy stocks a day after the central bank stunned markets with a surprise quarter-point rate hike.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.0% to 7,197.4 points at the close of trade to hit its lowest level since March 31.
The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday stunned markets by raising its cash rate by 25 basis points when traders had looked for an extended pause, saying inflation was way too high and higher rates might be required.
Investors also keenly awaited the US Federal Reserve’s board meeting due later in the day to gauge the future trajectory of monetary policy tightening.
“The selloff started yesterday when the RBA did the surprise 25-point increase and now we’re waiting for the US, which we anticipate will do the same. So the market is understandably nervous about that,” said Brad Smoling, managing director, Smoling Stockbroking.
Back in Sydney, the energy sub-index hit its lowest in more than five weeks after oil prices slumped 5% on US economic concerns.
Sector majors Woodside and Santos closed the day down 2.3% and 2.5%, respectively. Shares of Paladin and Beach Energy ended lower between 2.4% and 3.5%.
Financials dropped 1.5%, tracking a poor performance from US regional banks on Wall Street.
All “Big Four” banks traded in red, with National Australia Bank falling 1.9%.
Local miners lost 0.6% during the day, tracking a broader subdued mood in the mining market. Iron ore giants BHP Group, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue Metals lost 0.8%, 2.1% and 4.1%, respectively.
Among individual stocks, machine learning solutions company Appen ended the day 5.7% higher on teaming with NVIDIA for AI solutions.
Investors opted for safe-haven assets among gold stocks, with the sub-index limiting losses in the benchmark. The AXGD sub-index ended the day 2.5% higher.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.1% to finish the session at 11,908 points.
(Reporting by Rishav Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)