Australia Stocks Creep Lower As Commodities Weaken

Australian stocks slouched out of the Wednesday open, with drops for crude oil and iron ore helping push the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.2%, erasing the previous session's 0.1% tick higher. Losses for the Sydney market's key resource sectors included those for energy shares (Santos Ltd. down 1.9%, Oil Search Ltd. down 1.6%, WorleyParsons Ltd. down 2.8%) and iron-ore miners (Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 1.5%, Atlas Iron Ltd. down 2.7%, Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. down 4%). A fall in copper futures similarly slapped stock in Oz Minerals Ltd. down 2.4%, while BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 0.8%. The top banks saw milder declines, with Westpac Banking Corp. down 0.5%, and National Australia Bank Ltd. lower by 0.3%, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia went the other way, its shares gaining 0.2%, thanks to results that included lower bad-loan charges and an almost 10% rise in cash profit. Meanwhile, News Corp. -- the corporate parent of MarketWatch, publisher of this report -- fell 3.1% ahead of its earnings results due later in the global day, after the media major missed expectations in its previous profit report.

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