Shares were weaker with the S&P ASX 200 Index falling 2.1 per cent to close at 4875 on Wednesday, once again retreating from the 5000-point barrier.
The broader All Ordinaries Index lost 1.9 per cent to 4943.3.
Losses were experienced across the board, but the big story was the run on BHP Billiton’s shares, which slid 8.2 per cent to $16.18 on heavy volumes.
The selling was triggered by falls in commodity prices, including oil, but it also follows a day after the big miner reported its first loss in 16 years and abandoned its progressive dividend policy. This disturbed investors, triggering a reassessment of the stock.
Other miners and energy stocks were also hit, but with nothing like the force felt by the ‘Big Australian’.
Rio dropped 2.5 per cent, Woodside fell 2.6 per cent, Origin Energy slid 5.8 per cent and South32 fell by the same amount.
The biggest loser among the top 200 in percentage terms was mining services group WorleyParsons, which fell 13.1 per cent after net profit plunged.
The big banks were hit also, shedding between 2.8 per cent (CBA) and a whopping 3.9 per cent (Westpac).
Gold miners were among the few winners as investors rushed back into safe havens, They pushed the precious metal’s price up to $US1228 an ounce.
Gold miner Newcrest added 4.7 per cent and Evolution Mining rose 5.2 per cent.