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Australian stocks suffer worst drop since September

The local share market has suffered its worst single-day loss in five months amid hints of an embryonic financial crisis in the United States.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Friday plunged 166.4 points, or 2.28 per cent, to an eight-week low of 7,144.7. The All Ordinaries dropped 166.2 points, or 2.21 per cent, to 7,348.2.

The drop came after Silicon Valley Bank said overnight it would raise $US2 billion in additional capital to offset losses on bond sales, raising concerns about its solvency.

The tech-focused US bank was scrambling to reassure its venture capital clients their funds were safe as the stock of its holding company, SVB Financial, collapsed 60 per cent.

Earlier in the week, crypto-focused US bank Silvergate said it would wind down operations following a bank run prompted by regulatory concerns.

On Wall Street, the S&P500 dropped 1.9 per cent overnight and the risk-off environment spread on Friday across the Asia-Pacific region.

For the ASX200, the losses were its worst since September 14.

"It's a pretty ugly day because not only are we under the 50-day moving average, we've fallen below the 100-day moving average," Saxo Markets Australia analyst Jessica Amir told AAP.

"And now there could be some concern around if we fall under the 200-day moving average (around 7,010), that could probably trigger additional selling, particularly from the quant side of the market.

"What happens overnight, a lot is on the line on the US jobs report - if that's hotter than expected, the pendulum is probably likely to swing further down."

That monthly non-farm payrolls report - seen as crucial for determining the pace of US interest rate hikes - will be released overnight, shortly after midnight AEDT.

Every sector finished lower except for utilities. Energy was the hardest hit, falling 3.4 per cent as Woodside dropped 3.5 per cent to $34.05.

The heavyweight mining sector fell 3.1 per cent, with BHP down 3.4 per cent to $45.01, Fortescue retreating 2.7 per cent to $21.51 and Rio Tinto losing 3.3 per cent to $117.28.

Financials were down 2.8 per cent with major losses for all the big banks.

CBA dropped 3.3 per cent to a near-five-month low of $95.51, NAB fell 3.0 per cent to $29 and Westpac and ANZ both retreated 2.6 per cent, to $21.79 and $23.85 respectively.

Macquarie fell 3.2 per cent to $184.66 and Suncorp dropped 2.8 per cent to $12.62.

In the mining sector, there were also sharp losses among lithium players as the price of the battery metal continued to drop. Liontown fell 8.0 per cent, Allkem 8.6 per cent and Pilbara 7.0 per cent.

Piedmont Lithium fell 6.3 per cent as it responded to a critical report by a short seller, Blue Orca Capital, and announced its Quebec lithium mine had produced an initial batch of spodumene concentrate.

Goldminers were a rare spot of green, with Northern Star adding 1.7 per cent and Gold Road Resources climbing 1.4 per cent.

Origin Energy climbed 2.5 per cent to $8.35, bolstering the utility sector, following a report in the Australian Financial Review that Brookfield Asset Management and EIG Partners could submit a binding $18.2 billion takeover offer for Australia's largest energy retailer as early as next week.

Booktopia fell 4.2 per cent to 23c after the Federal Court ordered the online bookseller be fined $6 million for breaching Australian consumer law over its returns policy.

Over the week, the ASX200 lost 138.9 points, or 1.91 per cent, its fifth straight losing week and worst since late September.

The Australian dollar was buying 65.94 US cents, from 66.11 US cents at Thursday's ASX close.

Cryptocurrencies also plunged, with Bitcoin down nearly eight per cent to an eight-week low of $US20,030 ($A30,378).


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Friday down 166.4 points, or 2.28 per cent, at 7,144.7.

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 166.2 points, or 2.21 per cent, to 7,348.2.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 65.94 US cents, from 66.11 US cents at Thursday's ASX close

* 90.02 Japanese yen, from 90.38 Japanese yen

* 62.24 Euro cents, from 62.62 Euro cents

* 55.26 British pence, from 55.73 pence

* 108.01 NZ cents, from 108.05 NZ cents.