ASX plunges 2% ahead of March jobs data

Australian shares have recorded sharp early losses as global equities sour and a likely bleak unemployment figure looms.  

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was down 114.7 points, or 2.1 per cent, at 5352.0 points in the first 15 minutes of trade on Thursday, ahead of a widely expected announcement of an uptick in the jobless rate for March.

All sectors were in the red, with the banks and property firms losing more than 3.0 per cent.

The All Ordinaries index was down 115.5 points, or 2.09 per cent, to 5407.8.

The jobless rate is tipped to rise from 5.1 per cent to 5.4 per cent in figures due to be released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at 1130 AEST.

Economists say the figure could be the tip of the iceberg as widespread COVID-19 shutdowns and social restrictions were not implemented until the second half of the month, meaning the April data will be worse again.

The major US indexes plunged overnight as dismal economic data and first-quarter earnings reports sent investors scurrying.

The Australian dollar was buying 63.10 US cents at 1015 AEST, down from 63.54 US cents at the close of markets on Wednesday.

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