Australia Bank, Retail Stocks Gain As Miners Retreat

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks struggled sideways early Tuesday as trading resume after a three-day weekend, with financials gaining but resource-sector shares losing ground. The S&P/ASX 200 shed initial gains to sit flat about 30 minutes into the session, with moderate gains for the U.S. market overnight appearing to help the major bank shares, among the heaviest weighted on the benchmark stock index. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.6%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.5%, and National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. improved by 0.3% each. But on the downside, a fresh slump in iron-ore prices kicked the miners lower, as BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 2.4%, Rio Tinto Ltd. lost 2.7%, Arrium Ltd. retreated 7.3%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. dropped 8.9% to put it down almost 30% for the month to date. Another pullback for crude-oil futures, meanwhile, sent Santos Ltd. down 0.6%, Oil Search Ltd. down 1%, and WorleyParsons Ltd. down 1.5%, although Caltex Australia Ltd. added 1% after broker Bell Potter increased its earnings forecast but maintained a sell recommendation on the name, according to Dow Jones Newswires. The weaker energy prices failed to help Qantas Airways Ltd. , however, with its stock losing 1.3% as major shareholder Franklin Resources further trimmed its stake in the carrier. Retailers were broadly higher, with Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. up 1.3% and Myer Holdings Ltd. up 1.5%, but Wesfarmers Ltd. lagged the sector with a 0.2% rise as J.P. Morgan cut its profit outlook for the company.

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