The Australian share market has plunged at the open on heavy losses for the big banks after an APRA suggestion to suspend their dividends and a downgrade to their credit ratings.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index fell 90.2 points, or 1.72 per cent, to 5,162.1 points in the first 30 minutes of trade this morning as only the consumer staples sector remained in the black.

The All Ordinaries index shed 86.7 points, or 1.64 per cent, to 5,214.6.

Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB were down by between 3.01 per cent and 4.41 per cent as they moved to reassure investors they were well capitalised after the prudential watchdog said they should "seriously consider" suspending their dividends until there was more certainty about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Fitch also downgraded the big banks to A+ from AA- to reflect the agency's expectations of a significant economic shock in 1H20 due to measures taken to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Macquarie Group shares dropped 2.65 per cent to $90, while Bank of Queensland fell 5.25 per cent to $4.87 after heeding APRA's advice and deferring its first-half dividend.

The bank's decision came as BOQ reported a 10 per cent drop in cash earnings to $151 million for the first half of 2020.

For the miners, Rio Tinto fell 2.1 per cent to $88.75 and BHP dropped 1.51 per cent to $31.22.

Fortescue Metals lost 0.88 per cent to $11.32 and goldminers Newcrest, Northern Star and Evolution were mixed on softening precious metals prices.

Property firms also took an early hit, with Stockland, Goodman, Dexus, GPT Group, Vicinity Centres swaying between flat and a loss of 2.34 per cent at 1030 AEST.

Scentre, which is holding its AGM on Wednesday, was down 2.57 per cent.

Those falls come after the announcement yesterday of a new commercial code of conduct for tenancy agreements that will be regulated by each state and territory.

The code outlines principles for temporary changes to leasing arrangements to help small and medium enterprise tenants who are suffering financial hardship and are eligible for the federal JobKeeper program as a result of their turnover falling or likely to fall by 30 per cent or more.

The Australian dollar was buying 61.45 US cents at 10.30am AEST, down from 61.84 US cents at the close of markets yesterday.

- Reported with AAP

Source: 9News