LOS ANGELES – Australian stocks started Monday trading on a weak note, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3% at 5,175.60, as weak manufacturing data dragged on some blue chips. Shares of BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 0.6%, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. eased 0.4%, and Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. pulled back by 1.6% after China's official version of the manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 50.5 in January, down from 51 in December. Financial shares were broadly weaker ahead of a Reserve Bank of Australia policy decision due out Tuesday, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 1% and Macquarie Group Ltd. off 0.9%. Myer Holdings Ltd. traded 1.8% lower after Credit Suisse cut its rating on the shares to neutral from outperform, with fellow retailer David Jones Ltd. down 1.2%, and Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. off 1.3%. JB Hi-Fi Ltd. rose 0.7%, however, after posting half-year results.
Copyright © 2014 MarketWatch, Inc.