The stock board at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is seen in central Sydney November 6, 2008. Australian shares fell 3.8 percent on Thursday, driven down by miners such as BHP Billiton Ltd, after U.S. economic data stoked fears of a prolonged sl
The stock board at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is seen in central Sydney November 6, 2008. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

 Australian share are sliding for the second day with the ASX 200 Index down 0.6 per cent; adding to Tuesday's 1.6 per cent slump. The price of oil fell to a fresh 5.5 year low overnight; dropping by 4 per cent. The more than halving in oil prices in just six months continues to put the energy sector under the most selling pressure.

 Global markets also fell - with disappointing US economic data not helping. The S&P500 Index lost ground for the fifth consecutive day.

 The S&P/ASX 200 Energy Index (a measure of energy sector performance) is down 1.7 per cent. Australia's second largest oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum (WPL) is down 1.5 per cent while Santos (STO) is off 1.2 per cent. The reason the broader market isn't doing worse - is that the energy sector only makes up around 5 per cent of the Australian market.

 Junior gold stocks are standouts at lunch thanks to safe haven buying overnight. Companies like Northern Star, Evolution Mining and OceanaGold have been improving by as much as 5.5 per cent this morning.Newcrest Mining (NCM) is easing by 0.25 per cent after Tuesday's 2.5 per cent surge.

 Qantas Airways (QAN) has been volatile this morning and is currently down by 1.1 per cent. QAN was named the world's safest airline over 2014 today by today. Air New Zealand (AIZ), which is also listed on the ASX found a place in the top 10 and is up around 4.5 percent today. While the price of oil has halved in value over just 6 months, QAN shares have doubled over that period. AIZ is up 25 per cent while Virgin Australia (VAH) has barely budged since July 2014. The market is expecting losses from VAH for the next few years.

 On the economic front today, the results of a survey on the state of Australia's services industry was released. This highlighted the sector's 10th consecutive month of contraction in December. The index rose by 3.7pts to 47.5 in December and remains below the 50.0 mark which separates industry growth from contraction.

 Volume is a little light with 608m shares traded worth $1.6bn. 294 stocks are up, 423 down and 273 are flat.

 The Australian dollar has eased, buying US$0.806, €0.679, ¥95.8 and £0.532.

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