LOS ANGELES – Australian stocks started the week lower, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.4% in early Monday moves, taking its cue from U.S. share losses at the end of last week. A loss for London-traded copper helped send BHP Billiton Ltd. down 0.5%, Oz Minerals Ltd. down 0.6%, and Rio Tinto Ltd. down 0.7%. However, gains for iron-ore prices helped boost Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. by 0.4% and Atlas Iron Ltd. by 0.9%, while rising geopolitical troubles in Ukraine and Gaza drove gold prices higher, which in turn sent Newcrest Mining Ltd. up 1.4%, and Evolution Mining Ltd. up 3.3%. Shares of construction company Leighton Holdings Ltd. retreated 3.5% after posting a 20% drop in first-half net profit, compared to a year earlier. Most of the top financials were weaker, with Macquarie Group Ltd. down 1.5%, Westpac Banking Corp. off 0.7%, and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 0.6%, but National Australia Bank Ltd. inched 0.1% higher on news it planned to sell more than $1 billion in mostly distressed U.K. loans to private-equity firm Cerberus Global Investors. Among other major movers, James Hardie Industries SE fell 1.1%, Brambles Ltd. lost 1.1%, WorleyParsons Ltd. retreated 0.8%, Qantas Airways Ltd. added 0.4%, and Fairfax Media Ltd. rose 0.6%.
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