Australian shares end lower, with the big miners leading the falls as Fortescue takes another big hit after the iron ore price plunged overnight.

5.50pm: Thanks everyone who's still online for reading this blog. We're signing off now.

Here's our evening wrap of today' session.

5.03pm: The Australian dollar remains under pressure, weighed by falling commodity prices and a slowdown in China even as data showed the economy grew at a healthy pace last quarter.

The dollar is trading at a fresh six-week low of $US1.0187, from $US1.0285 in late local trade yesterday.

The Aussie has fallen about 4 per cent in the past month as markets grow increasingly bearish on China, Australia's biggest customer. It has retreated from a four-month high of $US1.0615 hit in August.

"It's looking bearish for the Aussie. The outlook for iron ore prices remains sombre and the Chinese data continues to unimpress," said David Scutt, a trader at Arab Bank Australia.

Indeed, there is growing speculation the Reserve Bank is prepared to cut rates next month after the central bank left its cash rate steady at 3.5 per cent at its September policy meeting yesterday.

Interbank futures imply a 2-in-3 chance of a rate cut in October, with the market fully priced for one in November. Overnight indexed swaps, which show where the market thinks the cash rate will be over time, put it at 2.82 percent in 12 months.

4.31pm: Other big losers today include Sundance (-13.1%), Boart Longyear (-12.6%), Gindalbie (-11.3%) and Arrium (-10%).

4.24pm: Here's how some of the blue chips performed today:

  • BHP: -1.6%
  • Rio: -2%
  • ANZ: -0.7%
  • CBA: -0.15%
  • NAB: -0.5%
  • Westpac: -1.5%
  • Fortescue: -8.5%
  • Woolies: -0.8%
  • Wesfarmers: +1%
  • Telstra: -0.5%

4.17pm: The materials sector led the way down, plunging 1.8 per cent, followed by indutrials, down 1.5 per cent. Financials slipped 0.3 per cent, while defensive sector health rose 2.1 per cent.

4.14pm: The sharemarket has closed lower, but off the day's lows. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 24.7 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 4278.8, while the broader All Ords lost 27.9 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 4297.7.

4.07pm: Ratings agency Fitch has downgraded Fortescue's outlook from 'stable' to 'negative', saying the “precipitous fall in iron ore prices” has increased the pressure on Fortescue’s liquidity and covenants.

Fitch says it acknowledges the miner’s move to defer parts of its expansion project until iron ore prices return to more sustainable levels, and that the deferral will result in a capital expenditure saving next year of $US1.6 billion, along a reduction in operating costs of $US300 million.

“[But] while these measures should alleviate some of the liquidity and covenant pressure in 2013, the ability to satisfy its covenant compliance remains dependent on the recovery of iron ore price to around $US110 per tonne,” the agency says.

It says it long-term issuer default rating (IDR) and senior unsecured rating have been affirmed at 'BB+'.

It says the BB+ rating reflects its expectation that once Fortescue’s capacity expansion is completed, by 30 June 2014, and within its revised budget, the miner’s credit profile “will improve rapidly and its metrics will be consistent with its 'BB+' rating.”

4.04pm: Deteriorating workplace relations and inefficient government bureaucracies are holding back Australia’s economic competitiveness, a leading industry group says.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) global competitiveness report for 2012-13 released on Wednesday ranked Australia 20th in a survey of 144 countries, unchanged from the previous year.

3.30pm:Fortescue shares remain off about 7.8 per cent on the day, with iron ore prices the main drag. Here are some numbers from Reuters:

China steel futures fell to an all-time low on Wednesday as poor demand in the world's top steel market kept the pressure on prices, sending iron ore further below $US90 a tonne to its weakest since October 2009.

Iron ore has dropped 36 per cent since early July, the main casualty among industrial commodities of China's slowdown, and analysts say the downturn still has momentum.

"There may be more downside, unfortunately, given the high iron ore inventory in China and no sign of recovery in steel demand. Iron ore demand is very, very weak," said Helen Lau, senior commodities analyst at UOB-Kay Hian in Hong Kong.

Iron ore stockpiles at major Chinese ports stood at above 98 million tonnes last week, not far off the record high of around 101 million tonnes set in February.

Meanwhile, for the quarter, Fortescue shares are down 36 per cent, while Atlas Iron are off 41 per cent.

(The worst two stocks for the period among the ASX 200 are Boart Longyear, down 61 per cent, and APN News, off 49 per cent.)

3.24pm: BusinessDay's Tim Colebatch has this view on the GDP figures: Still growing strong, without the feelgood factor.

Here's a taste:

By and large, it's so far, so good. The national accounts depict an economy where wages are soaring, households are spending up, mining companies are ramping up investment at unprecedented rates – and even governments are pouring in more money.

That is why the accounts show GDP growing at the surprisingly high rate of 3.7 per cent in the 12 months to June – despite relatively weak employment growth, and all the other things we know have gone wrong.

The detailed figures show weaknesses all through the economy - manufacturing is in a deepening recession, as is housing investment, areas of discretionary spending such as eating out, the media, and entertainment, and, not least, Tasmania, now clearly in recession.

But those weaknesses are outweighed by the economy's strengths: above all, mining investment. In the past year, more than half of Australia's growth in spending has gone into developing new mines. Mining investment grew 72 per cent. The rest of the economy grew by a bit over 2 per cent. That's why the growth figure looks so out of whack with what we're experiencing.

3.07pm: Prime Minister Julia Gillard has flatly dismissed Gina Rinehart’s call for a special economic zone in Australia’s north.

Ms Gillard also took a swipe at the iron ore magnate for her recent column in Australian Resources and Investment magazine, in which the billionaire suggested reducing the minimum wage.

‘‘It’s not the Australian way to toss people $2, to toss them a gold coin, and then ask them to work for a day.‘‘We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions,’’ she said in Perth.

Ms Gillard also rejected Ms Rinehart’s assertion in the magazine column that Africa was now a more attractive mining investment destination compared to Australia with its new carbon and mining taxes.

2.54pm: There's a massive amount of information in the national accounts to keep the presses running on various angles for days, Michael Pascoe writes, but to pick just a couple of other matters out of the rich mix:

  • Yes, mining as big, contributing 0.5 percentage points to the economy's total growth, but it only tied for first place. For all the gloomy headlines about banks shedding jobs and low credit growth, the finance and insurance services tied the growth contribution made by mining.
  • Manufacturing went backwards, detracting 0.2 percentage points from GDP, with most of that loss in the second half of the year when consumption expenditure was surprising on the upside.
  • In the June quarter, the main industry contributors to GDP were whole trade up 3 per cent, transport up 2.6 per cent and professional, scientific and technical services up 1.9 per cent and each contributing 0.1 percentage points to the increase in GDP. No, it's not just directly about shovels hitting dirt.
  • The household saving ratio seems to have stabilised at a nice 9 per cent. That's a healthy figure, but one regularly hears commentators talking about double-digit household saving ratio – no, that was just a surge in the seasonally adjusted numbers when the GFC first smacked.
  • The inventories story is interesting and open to plenty of interpretation. Wholesale inventories picked up strongly in the June quarter (and therefore contributed to GDP growth) while manufacturing inventory fell, as did retailers but by a lesser amount.

2.38pm: The federal government's leading employment indicator rose for the second month in a row in September, although cyclical employment continued to fall.

The department said its leading jobs index rose by 0.079 points to -0.818 in September, although the index was well down on its level of 0.341 in September a year ago. The measures of cyclical employment fell to -0.397 in September -0.276 in August, for its 19th consecutive monthly fall.

"It is too early to confirm that a renewed quickening in the pace of employment growth above its long-term trend rate of 1.7 per cent per annum is in prospect, because the indicator has risen for fewer than six consecutive months," the department said.

Official jobs data for August is due on Thursday and economists expect the unemployment rate to climb to 5.3 per cent from 5.2 per cent in July, although with an extra 5000 jobs for the month.

Since the early 1980s, the leading index has consistently anticipated turns in the labour market, beginning to rise and fall before employment does, but with variable time lags.

2.29pm: A slowdown in China's economy is perceived as the biggest risk to Asia's economic growth, a survey of regional powerbrokers says.

While there are also worries about the weakness in the European and US economies, the survey by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) think tank says there is more concern over the effects of a slowdown in China.

"In terms of risks to growth, regional opinion leaders were more worried about the impact of a slowdown in China than they were for slowdowns in Europe and the United States, albeit by a slight margin," it says.

Results of the survey - which included business executives, senior government officials and academics - were released in the Russian city of Vladivostok ahead of this weekend's APEC leaders' summit.

2.22pm: Pallets and containers supplier Brambles says it has entered the 2012-13 financial year in good shape despite uncertain economic conditions.

‘‘Brambles has entered the 2013 financial year in robust and resilient shape, despite the ongoing challenges created by the uncertain and volatile economic conditions in many of our major markets,’’ Brambles chairman Graham Kraehe and chief executive Tom Gorman say in the company’s annual report.

Brambles has repeated its guidance for the 2013 financial year, saying it expected an underlying group profit of between $US1.01 billion and $US1.07 billion at June 30 foreign exchange rates.

Despite the outlook, Brambles shares are down 0.6 per cent to $6.80.

2.14pm: Asian markets are slipping further following losses in Europe and on Wall Street after a third straight monthly contraction in US manufacturing activity.

The disappointing US data follows poor numbers on factory activity from Asia and Europe but dealers looked forward to a European Central Bank meeting, optimistic there would be new measures to fight the lingering debt crisis,

Tokyo has fallen 0.83 per cent by the break, Hong Kong has lost 1.14 per cent, Shanghai has shed 0.57 per cent and Seoul is off 1.52 per cent.

2pm: More on the bonus cuts at News Corp... At this year’s meeting, to be held in Los Angeles on October 16, several investors will be putting forward resolutions for the appointment of an independent chairman, and elimination of the company’s dual-share structure which has ensured the Murdoch family control 40 per cent of votes despite owning just 12 per cent of the company, Colin Kruger reports.

Investors are also seeking a simple majority vote on all resolutions.

News Corp says it will oppose these resolutions.

1.45pm: Hedge funds are bearish on China, wagering that iron ore prices will remain below $US100 a tonne in the next six months, Adele Ferguson says:

They are gambling that at such prices, or lower, Fortescue will have no choice but to raise equity in the next six months - possibly as much as $2 billion - a sale that will inevitably go through at a discount.

Investors are also looking at the list of mining companies and examining those that will need to raise equity, seek refinancing or sell assets.

Right now, Fortescue is one of their biggest targets, followed by Iluka and Alumina. In the past few days, the amount of Fortescue stock that has been shorted by investors has doubled from 7.5 per cent to almost 16 per cent.

Here's the full story

1.33pm: Fancy an Apple or prefer Club Med?

Goldman Sachs points out that Apple, which became the world’s most valuable-ever company two weeks ago (with a market cap of about $630 billion), is worth more than all of the listed companies in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain combined.

With 63,300 workers globally, that makes every employee worth nearly $10 million. It also makes Apple worth more than every single share available to investors in the international benchmark, the MSCI China Index.

Apple shares last traded on the Nasdaq at $US674.97 per share.

But with all the speculation about a possible new iPad, along with the already confirmed iPhone 5, Wedbush Securities in the US recently lifted its price target for the company from an already ambitious $US800 to $US885 per share.

1.28pm: Reader ‘Mr Eyesore’ raises an interesting point in his comment on Liz Knight's piece When the bull goes bear, the boom is done:

Did anyone notice this?

**quote** Releasing BC Iron's full-year results yesterday, managing director Mike Young acknowledged the falling price had ''everyone a little nervous at the moment''.

''My view is that very little is being said of the effect of the leadership transition in China going on right now.

''I expect that, following the election of China's next premier, Li Keqiang, you will see a loosening of monetary policy and systematic stimulus.'' **end quote**

Australia's bilateral trade in 2011 with China was $138.7 billion. With the USA it was $38.1 billion, or one-third of that with China.

Now, think about how much media coverage there has been of the US Presidential contest compared with the Chinese leadership transition. About 1/100th, going the other way.

And we wonder why there's so much uncertainty about the future of our commodity prices.

1.21pm: Rupert and James Murdoch have had part of their multi-million dollar cash bonuses withheld as a result of News Corp’s UK phone hacking scandal - but they still won't be complaining.

The company’s most senior executives were still paid between $US10 million and $US30 million in the 12 months to June 30.

Chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch was paid $US30 million in the year, a 10 per cent reduction from the previous 12 months. On top of a $US8.1 million annual salary, Rupert Murdoch accepted a cash bonus of $US10.4 million, less than the $US12.5 million he could have received.

James Murdoch, News Corp’s deputy chief operating officer and former head of News International, was paid $US16.8 million in the year to June. He accepted a cash bonus of $US5 million, $US1 million less than his targeted bonus.

1.09pm: Treasurer Wayne Swan is enjoying his moment in the sun over the GDP numbers:

‘‘Today’s national accounts reaffirm Australia’s position as one of the strongest economies in the world and shines a light on our ongoing resilience in the face of significant international headwinds,’’ he said, pointing out that Australia was growing faster than every single major advanced economy and had completed a ‘‘stunning’’ 21 consecutive years of economic growth.

And he is right - the result remains strong by global standards:

The US recorded a growth rate of 2.3 per cent over the year to the end of June, while the UK shrank by 0.5 per cent. Germany grew by 1 per cent, France by just 0.3 per cent while Italy contracted by 2.5 per cent and Spain lost 1.3 per cent.

In our region, Japan rose by 3.5 per cent, China by 7.6 per cent and South Korea grew by 2.4 per cent.

1.01pm: Treasurer Wayne Swan remains steadfast about the government's commitment to deliver a surplus budget this financial year, despite lower than expected commodity prices.

"While we have budgeted for a decline in our terms of trade, commodity spot prices have fallen more than we anticipated in May. And obviously it would be a further hit to our budget bottom line if these lower prices were sustained," Swan said in Canberra.

"That will make our budget task harder. But we are absolutely commited to delivering a surplus in 2012-13."

12.56pm: Banks also seem to be losing some of their safe haven status, after economists said it would be tougher for Australia to sustain its rate of growth.

The big banks are down between 0.4 per cent (CBA) and 1.5 per cent (Westpac).

"With what's happened with commodity prices in the last couple of months, the income story is turning against us in a fairly significant way. That insulation does look like it's a little frayed," says CBA chief economist Michael Blythe.

"The mining part of the story will come to an end eventually. We will need to see a bit more activity in the non-mining part of the (economic) story coming through."

12.53pm: While the miners and big banks are pulling the market down, there are a number of shares providing some support (or even safe haven?). The biggest support for the ASX200 is coming from:

  • CSL: +3.5%
  • Westfield: +2%
  • Wesfarmers: +0.6%
  • IAG: +2.6%

Telstra, on the other hand, is down 0.65 per cent, even though it did quite well in the past when the market was being shaken up.

12.43pm: Fortescue shares are still down about 9 per cent - meaning that chairman Andrew Forrest has taken a more than $300 million hit on his near 33 per cent stake in the miner. Not to mention the round about $3 billion he's lost since the shares were at their 2012 peak of $6.08 in late March.

12.24pm: The corporate regulator is threatening Macquarie Group with sanctions after an investigation found chronic compliance failures in the bank's retail stockbroking division, Michael West writes in an exclusive.

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission secured evidence from an internal report at Macquarie Private Wealth, which found more than 80 per cent of the division's private client advisors were in breach of compliance standards.

The timing of the ASIC demand may be no coincidence, said one source familiar with the action. Macquarie now faces the regulator in two major actions, the other being Storm Financial.

The rumours that something was awry swirled last Thursday afternoon as Macquarie Private Wealth boss Eric Schimpf led the board of the investment bank on a tour through the funky new Shelly Street offices which tower over Sydney's Darling Harbour.

Speculation was suddenly rife in the dealing room. Were they getting Australia's biggest stock broking operation ready for auction?

Here's the whole article

12.14pm: Here's how the region's markets are doing today (not great):

  • Japan (Nikkei): -0.6%
  • Hong Kong: -1.1%
  • Shanghai: -0.4%
  • Taiwan: -1.1%
  • Korea: -1.4%
  • Singapore: -0.6%
  • New Zealand: -0.05%

12.03pm: And talking about the state of the economy: sales of new vehicles rose 6.2 per cent in August, compared to the same month last year, led by big gains in the sports utility and commercial vehicle sectors.

The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries VFACTS report showed total vehicle sales in August were 93,552, compared to 88,082 in the same month last year.

Sales were up 8 per cent on July in original terms, while adjusting for seasonal factors left sales up 5.1 per cent for the month, VFACTS said.

Sales of sport utility vehicles extended their barnstorming run with a rise of 18.6 per cent on a year earlier.

11.59am: While second-quarter GDP numbers are widely seen as pretty decent, the focus is now turning to the third quarter, which could look quite different considering the fall in iron ore prices and, more generally, in the terms of trade.

"I think next quarter there will be bigger pressures on that with what's happening in the iron ore price," says ANZ economist Ivan Colhoun.

He says the RBA will rebase its growth estimates using today's numbers, however, the central bank is already focused on the future.

"All the things the RBA was talking about yesterday was about future growth," he says. "They're worried about China, about commodity prices, and the Aussie dollar not responding to those effects."

11.53am: Pretty positive tweet on the GDP figures from Adam Carr:

Today's Aussie GDP is a great result showing good broad-based strength.

- @AdamCarrEcon

And here's another one, focusing on the surprisingly strong productivity growth:

Positive #2/ Productivity growth was 2.9% over the year to June qtr. Best in years. .....Is the slump in productivity growth over?

- @ShaneOliverAMP

11.51am: The ASX200 has just hit the day's lows, down 0.9 per cent. Losses are being led by the materials sector (-2.5%) and industrials (-1.9%). Energy stocks are down 1.1 per cent and financials have lost 0.9 per cent.

11.49am: The government is beefing up the communications regulator’s powers so it can take quicker action against telcos that fail to provide better customer service, BusinessDay's Lucy Battersby writes.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will announce today plans to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) the power to issue a ‘‘service provider direction’’.

This will speed up the ACMA’s response time if it finds the industry is not abiding by a new industry-drafted Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code. 

If telcos ignore the direction, the ACMA can take companies to court for civil damages and fines of up to $250,000.

11.40am: Growth was slightly weaker than expected because consumers held back in the quarter, National Australia Bank group chief economist Alan Oster says:

  • It’s a touch slower than what we’re thinking, mainly because of consumption was a bit lower than what we were expecting.
  • I think the economy will probably slow in the second half.

11.35am: The dollar slipped slightly on the GDP numbers but quickly recovered and is now trading at $US1.0207 - hardly bugding, as the numbers are after all for the second quarter and we're in the middle of the third...

11.31am: GDP second-quarter numbers came in at 0.6 per cent and 3.7 per cent. So the quarterly growth came in slightly below expectations.

11.28am: GDP numbers out in two minutes; dollar trading at $US1.0201.

Expectations are for 0.7% growth qoq, and 3.7%yoy.

11.24am: BHP chief Marius Kloppers is also optimistic about the iron ore price (he would be...), as high-cost producers in China stop production, JPMorgan says, citing a meeting with Kloppers and other executives yesterday.

11.12am: Some good news for iron ore miners: UBS is predicting that the price for the bulk commodity will recover in November and hit $US120 by year's end. Brave call.

11.06am: Good time for the government to raise some cheap money: Treasury has sold $800 million of 11-year bonds with a yield of 3.07 per cent.

10.48am: Fortescue and other iron ore miners are being dumped, because investors are fearful of greater falls in the price of iron ore, City Index chief market analyst Peter Esho says:

  • Fortescue is being sold off as part of the whole iron-ore-prices-are-falling, get-out-of-Fortescue-because-it-hasn't-bottomed-yet kind of thing.
  • Investors are looking past the positive elements of the sale of the power station at Solomon mine, which releases capital at a reasonable price.
  • The broader theme is to move out of the iron ore stocks until they bottom. Nobody wants to be caught trying to find the bottom.

10.39am: The dollar, meanwhile, has inched back above $US1.02, trading at $US1.0208.

10.31am: It's not only Fortescue taking a big hit, other iron ore miners are being bashed up too:

  • Gindalbie Metals: -11.3%
  • Fortescue: -9.1%
  • Sundance: -6.6%
  • Atlas Iron: -6.4%
  • Arrium: -5.4%

10.23am: The main reason for the slump in the big miners is another drop in the iron ore price, which fell to $US86.90 overnight, its lowest since October 2009.

10.20am: Fortescue shares are taking another big hit today, falling 10 per cent in early trade. The market value of Australia's third iron ore force has plunged below $10 billion, its lowest since June 2009.

The other big miners, Rio and BHP, are both down 2.2 per cent.

10.18am: The market has opened sharply lower, with the ASX200 down 0.8 per cent. The big miners are leading the losses, with the materials sector down 2.3 per cent.

9.54am: Following yesterday's rates decision by the RBA, the chances of a rate cut in October have jumped. According to Credit Suisse data, the market gives a 25 basis point cut on 3 October a 64 per cent chance. That's up from just 5 per cent early yesterday.

For more on yesterday's decision and policy statement, here's BusinessDay's Peter Martin.

9.50am: The first piece of today's economic data is out. Australia’s services sector contracted for the seventh straight month in August as cautious consumers and the high exchange rate continue to hurt the industry.

The Australian Industry Group/Commonwealth Bank Australian Performance of Services Index (PSI), released on Wednesday, fell 4.1 points to 42.4 in August. A reading of below 50 indicates a contraction in the sector.

Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive Inness Willox said weak consumer demand, the high value of the Australian dollar and the impact of the carbon tax contributed to the decline.

9.47am: While we're on the subject of Fortescue, the iron ore miner has been downgraded from 'buy' to neutral at UBS with the price target of $3.80 reduced from $5.60.

But UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock said Fortescue's capital and operating costs cuts announced yesterday have bought the company time to wait for iron prices to rebound.

9.43am: Fortescue Metals is in the news again this morning after selling the power station at its Solomon mine in Western Australia's Pilbara region for $US300 million ($A2942 million).

The iron ore miner had been negotiating the sale for some time. The sale comes a day after it put the brakes on tripling its iron ore capacity and slashed jobs to shore up its debt-ladened balance sheet.

9.39am: The Aussie dollar has fallen overnight. It climbed to close to $US1.028 yesterday after the RBA decided to keep official interest rates steady. But losses on Wall Street have helped depress the dollar. It was recently buying $US1.0216, up from $US1.0211, the lowest since July 13.

BK Asset Management managing director Kathy Lien said concerns about the global economy caused the currency to lose ground during the US and European sessions.

‘‘It seems that concerns about growth in China and uncertainty abroad, as well as the risk aversion we have seen in the market today, have stripped the Aussie of its gains,’’ she said.

Ms Lien said data showing the US manufacturing sector in August contracted for a third straight month had also weighed on the Australian dollar.

A reading below 50 indicates the sector is contracting.‘‘That has contributed to the sell-off in US stocks, which has also pressured the Aussie dollar lower,’’ Ms Lien said.

9.36am: Another story from offshore could have a way to run this week. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reportely told European lawmakers that buying short-term sovereign debt - quantitative easing, in other words - did not breach any European Union rules, which investors took as a sign the bank would resume purchases of short-dated Spanish and Italian bonds.

The move could be announced as early as Thursday this week when the ECB meets. The meeting is also expected to announced a further reduction in eurozone interest rates to 0.5 per cent from 0.75 per cent, according to a Bloomberg survey of 58 economists.

9.34am: For a comprehensive look at this morning’s business news, check today’s need2know. Here are this morning’s key market links:

  • SPI futures are 13 points lower at 4300
  • The $A is lower at $US1.0225
  • In the US, the S&P500 fell 0.12% to 1404.94
  • In Europe, the FTSE100 fell 1.5% to 5672.01
  • Gold rose $10.70 to $US1698.30 an ounce
  • WTI crude oil fell 97 cents to $US95.50 a barrel
  • Reuters/Jefferies CRB index fell 0.25% to 308.81

9.32am: Stocks look set for a weak start after Wall Street closed lower on a bad set of manufacturing numbers. According to the Institute for Supply Management survey, US manufacturing shrank at its sharpest clip in more than three years during August, and shrank for the third month in a row.

ISM's index of national factory activity fell to 49.6 in August, from 49.8 in July, and shy of the 50.0 median estimate in a Reuters poll of economists. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the key sector.

9.30am: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Markets Live blog for Wednesday.

This blog is not intended as investment advice

BusinessDay with agencies