Sydney, Nov 21, 2008 AEST (ABN Newswire) - Overnight Wall Street plunged almost 400 points in late trading on more weak economic data and the Congress failed to produce a bailout for carmakers.

On Thursday, the Australian sharemarket closed more than four per cent weaker, dropping almost to five-year lows, with losses in all sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 146.7 points, or 4.19 per cent, at 3,352.9 while the broader All Ordinaries index had shed 150.6 points, or 4.32 per cent, to 3332.6. Analysts predict the bottom is getting closer and lower than 3000 points is possible as market would be dragged down by the US and growing concerns on recession in Australia.

At 0829 AEDT, the December Share Price Index futures contract on the Sydney Futures Exchange was down 163 points at 3,235.

Aussie dollar has opened more than US2 cents weaker as the sharpest fall in Japanese exports since 2001 convinced investors an economic slowdown would hit Asia. At 7am (AEDT), the dollar was trading at $US0.6129/33, down 3.5 per cent from yesterday's close of $US0.6350/54.

Oil prices tumbled below $US50 a barrel in London and New York on Thursday as the crude market was plagued by weak energy demand. In New York, light sweet crude for delivery in December dived to $US49.91 a barrel - the lowest level since January 18, 2007.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

Overnight the Reserve Bank bought a record A$3.15 billion to defend the Australian dollar when it plunged towards 60 US cents in another sign of its concern about the state of the economy. A spokesman for the central bank said today that the RBA had been intervening to "provide liquidity" to the currency market.

Treasurer Wayne Swan says he has no plans to borrow in order to invest, despite an assurance from the Reserve Bank it would be fine to do so.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said the total value of credit and charge card transactions, including advances, rose in September. Australians spent A$19.191 billion on their credit and charge cards in September, compared with A$17.802 billion in August, a rise of 7.8 per cent.

M&A News

The board of Rio Tinto(ASX:RIO) has rejected a proposal to buy Eastern Corp's(ASX:ECU) 90 percent stake in the Broughton coking coal deposit for A$10 million. Rio Tinto proposed buying the stake in January before pulling out of the deal two months later after conducting due diligence.

Australia's Nexus Energy Ltd(ASX:NXS) will consider a full sale of the company after some parties interested in buying a stake in its key Crux project. The company said it was working to strengthen its balance sheet and was considering a number of debt funding proposals, including placing shares to a new cornerstone investor.

Gindalbie Metals(ASX:GBG) says its growing war chest is the positive outcome of a large share placement to Chinese steel making giant AnSteel(SHE:000898)(HKG:0347). Gindalbie's balance sheet will be boosted by A$162.1 million from AnSteel in return for new shares that will lift AnSteel's stake from 12.6 per cent to 36.28 per cent.

Important Corporate News

Food group Goodman Fielder(ASX:GFF) expects first-half earnings to fall 15 per cent because of higher commodity costs and a shift to private-label products in supermarkets. The company says a full-year net profit is in line with current market expectations in the range of A$191-$204 million for the year to June 30 next year.

Fortescue Metals Group(ASX:FMG) says it will boost its iron ore exports after amending its contract with a major Chinese steel mill and has bought back about A$100 million of debt at a substantial discount. The company said yesterday it had delivered a third-quarter A$360 million trading profit.

Programmed Maintenance Services(ASX:PRG) has reaffirmed its full-year earnings guidance, after booking a healthy 50 per cent growth in underlying first-half net profit and cutting its gearing levels by 15 per cent. It reported a net profit of A$12.6 million included A$3.5 million in defence costs related to the hostile takeover bid by its rival Spotless.

1. Related Stocks - Mid Market (AEST 1230)
----------------------------------------------------Code   % Change   Volume     Turnover      Low  High----------------------------------------------------ASX:RIO -4.2    1,659,017  $95,583,467  5400    5520ASX:FMG +12.79  9,416,943  $13,591,130  134.5   158ASX:NXS -19.75  7,132,723  $2,485,806   31      42ASX:GFF -4.76   1,795,900  $2,552,546   139.5   145ASX:GBG -4.34   1,064,376  $348,783     32      34ASX:PRG -3.71   95,834     $246,928     250     264ASX:ECU +10     14,912     $1,640       11      11
2. Top 10 ASX on Turnover - Mid Market (AEST 1230)
----------------------------------------------------Code   % Change   Volume     Turnover      Low  High----------------------------------------------------ASX:BHP -3.79   10,723,400 $234,928,213 2000    2045ASX:WPL -7.3    3,003,710  $101,222,461 2681    2877ASX:CBA -4.33   3,370,217  $100,208,738 2785    2850ASX:WBC -5.76   6,277,404  $95,629,888  1459    1524ASX:RIO -4.2    1,659,507  $95,610,339  5400    5520ASX:NAB -4.83   4,980,628  $90,759,951  1781    1860ASX:ANZ -4.38   6,615,060  $84,335,610  1230    1259ASX:TLS -.5     19,693,549 $77,461,993  390     396ASX:WOW -3.53   1,928,031  $46,318,536  2370    2447ASX:CSL -10.61  1,528,673  $46,125,482  2920    3090


Michelle Liang
Asia Business News Asia Bureau
Tel: +61-2-9247-4344

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