LOS ANGELES – Australian stocks rose in early Friday trade, with overnight U.S. gains helping sentiment. The S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5% to 5,439.30, with the key financial and mining sectors broadly higher. Among the largest banks, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group added 1% and Westpac Banking Corp. improved by 0.7%, though National Australia Bank Ltd. fell 2.5% after posting a 7% gain in fiscal-first-quarter cash earnings. Among the senior miners, BHP Billiton Ltd. added 1.5%, and Rio Tinto Ltd. improved by 1%, while a rebound for gold futures after the close of New York trade helped send Newcrest Mining Ltd. up 3.4%, and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. rising 5.9%. Elsewhere, Fairfax Media Ltd. lost 1.7% after Macquarie cut it to neutral from outperform, while Qantas Airways Ltd. climbed 2.5% on a ratings upgrade to outperform from the same broker. A 1% drop in annual profit for Santos Ltd. sent its shares down 1%, as the result missed forecasts, while Crown Resorts Ltd. retreated 4.6% despite posting an almost doubling of six-month net profit.
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