LOS ANGELES – Australian stocks slogged lower early Wednesday, with miners among the leading decliners, as the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 gave up 0.4% to 5,311.00 ahead of inflation data due later in the morning. A sharp drop for spot iron-ore prices to a six-month low dragged on some of the top metals stocks, with Rio Tinto Ltd. off 1.7%, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. retreating 3.5%, and Newcrest Mining Ltd. tracking losses for gold to trade 2.9% lower. Shares of BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 1.4% despite posting a strong quarterly production report, including a 16% rise in iron-ore output compared to a year earlier. Alumina Ltd. , however, squeeked out a 0.2% gain after U.S. partner Alcoa Inc. saw an almost 7% gain in New York after an upgrade from J.P. Morgan. Shares of News Corp. -- the parent of MarketWatch, publisher of this report -- dropped 3.1% on news that the chief executive of its Dow Jones arm was leaving and that News Corp. was "reviewing the institutional strategy" of the division. News Corp.'s Australian rival Fairfax Media Ltd. saw a 1.5% gain for its shares.
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