Markets plunge after plane disaster

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 15:19 18/07/2014

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Sharemarkets are down today amid political uncertainty following the shooting down of an airliner over Ukraine and Israel's invasion of Gaza.

At midday the NZX 50 Index was about 0.6 per cent lower with most stocks falling in morning trading, including Air New Zealand which dropped as much as 2.5 per cent to $1.95, in line with major airline stocks in the United States.

In Australia the S&P/ASX200 was down nearly 0.6 per cent with Qantas opening the day lower, falling A0.5 cents to A$1.235 as the senate considers the Qantas Sale Act.

Virgin Australia also dropped A0.5c to A0.40c as the fallout from the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine filtered through the market.

Wall Street retreated sharply from Wednesday's record close, with the Dow Jones sinking 161.39 points, or 0.94 per cent to 16,976.81 on the back of the disaster.

Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research Mark Lister said most major markets were down overnight following news that flight MH17 was shot down killing all 298 people on board.

This coupled with news that Israel had sent ground troops into Gaza caused most major markets to fall, he said.

"The markets' reaction is always one of caution," Lister said.

News of the MH17 crash was limited, which added to uncertainty because markets "hate the unknown", he said.

"People are still scratching around for information. Markets will shoot first and ask questions later."

Interest rates and the New Zealand dollar both fell and oil and gold prices both went up which was typical during times of geopolitical uncertainty, he said.

The kiwi was trading about US86.63c.

In the short term Air New Zealand could be affected by the MH17 disaster because people might be put off air travel, and by higher oil prices, Lister said.

But Air New Zealand and the NZX would be largely shielded because of New Zealand's distance from global hotspots.

"We're lucky that we're very far away from the epicentre of what's going on," he said.

"I would see the weakness today as more driven by sentiment rather than any likely impact on our economy."

Milford Asset Management global fund portfolio manager Felix Fok said international markets experienced a sell-off of volatile equities and more bonds being bought overnight, he said.

"This suggests a flight to safety or flight to quality concept," Fok said.

The Ukraine conflict could affect European markets and international oil prices because Russia controlled significant oil and gas assets, he said.

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Crude oil prices were up about 2 per cent overnight which would affect Air New Zealand.

But at this stage the conflict in Ukraine was unlikely to have any long-term impact on the New Zealand market, he said.

"That region of the world, aside from the energy angle, is not overly significant for New Zealand businesses," Fok said.

Milford Asset Management was optimistic about global air travel in the next five to 10 years.

"We think it's one of the more exciting areas in terms of growth," he said.

- Stuff

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