Some unfavorable earnings news and losses for key commodities helped to depress Australian stocks in early Monday trading, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.2% to extend Friday's 0.4% drop. On the earnings front, BlueScope Steel Ltd. tumbled almost 10% after posting strong profit growth but warning its margins would narrow due to a weak steel price. Health insurer NIB Holdings Ltd. retreated 2.7% after reporting a mild gain for the bottom line but tipping its full-year operating profit to come in at the lower end of its previously forecast range. On the other hand, Boart Longyear Ltd. jumped 7.5% after cutting its full-year loss to half of what it suffered in 2013, and property major Lend Lease Group added 0.6% to its share price as its six-month profit rose by 25%. Among the resource stocks, losses for crude-oil futures meant losses for Oil Search Ltd. (down 0.7%), Caltex Australia Ltd. (down 1.6%), and Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. (down 2.9% despite gains for natural-gas prices). Comex gold's move back to just above the $1,200-an-ounce level was also a weight on the relevent equities, as Newcrest Mining Ltd. fell 1.4%, and Perseus Mining Ltd. droped 4.2%. Among the top miners, BHP Billiton Ltd. eased 0.6% a day ahead of its earnings report, while Rio Tinto Ltd. rose 0.5%.
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