The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 1.38 per cent to 6,710.7 points at 1200 AEDT on Tuesday, while the broader All Ordinaries down 1.33 per cent to 6,829.2 points.
Tech stocks and consumer staples had the biggest losses but every sector was well in retreat by noon, with only energy and mining stocks avoiding a slump of more than a percentage point.
The ASX had been tipped to close out the year with another weak session as Wall Street continues to pull back from record highs amid thin holiday trade.
BHP was down 1.12 per cent to $38.98 and Rio Tinto fell 0.43 per cent to $101.16.
South32 was flat at $2.70, Fortescue Metals was 0.78 per cent lower at $10.795, and BlueScope Steel dropped 1.11 per cent to $15.10.
Gold miners were the only group of gainers, with Newcrest, Northern Star and Evolution each up by between 0.57 per cent and 1.89 per cent. The big four banks were all lower, with ANZ down 1.13 per cent at $24.52, Commonwealth Bank down 1.27 per cent to $80.07, NAB dipping 1.47 per cent to $24.525, and Westpac down 1.07 per cent to $24.14.
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Bank of Queensland, and Macquarie Group fell between 0.76 per cent 1.22 per cent.
The volatile tech sector suffered the heaviest losses early on, with the so-called WAAAX contingent of Wisetech, Afterpay, Appen, Altium and Xero down between 1.72 per cent and 4.27 per cent.
Bravura Solutions was down 2.06 per cent at $5.23.
Consumer staples were dragged lower by supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, which dropped 2.38 per cent to $36.55 and 1.76 per cent to $15.07, respectively. Energy stocks were also in the red, with Woodside, Oil Search, Origin, and Santos down by between 0.84 per cent and 1.56 per cent.
Beach Energy was flat at $2.56.
Telco Telstra was down 1.1 per cent at $3.60 while biotech giant CSL slumped 1.94 per cent to $276.49.
Health care stocks were also weighed down by a 2.2 per cent loss for Sonic Healthcare and a 1.4 per cent loss for Ramsay Health Care.
The market will close early at 1410 AEDT on Tuesday, and will resume trade on Thursday after breaking for New Year’s Day.
The Aussie dollar is buying 70.03 US cents, from 69.76 US cents on Monday, having moved within touching distance of a new five-month high overnight.