Australia Stocks Down As The Big Banks Weaken

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks staggered lower in early Tuesday trading, as strength in the miners wasn't enough to counter weak financial-sector shares and a mixed bag in terms of earnings and other corporate updates. The S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.6%, as Australia & New Zealand Banking Group lost 2.7% after posting a flat quarterly profit and a slimmer interest margin. While ANZ said the trading environment had turned "slightly tougher," Macquarie Group Ltd. said the opposite, citing improved conditions in its trading update as likely to deliver full-year profit near 20%, the top end of its outlook range. Shares of Macquarie rose 1.5%, though other major financials fell, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia down 2.5% as its stock traded without rights to the latest dividend, and Bank of Queensland Ltd. down 1.1%. Several major miners got a boost from further gains for iron-ore spot prices, as BHP Billiton Ltd. rose 0.2% and Rio Tinto Ltd. added 0.5%. But an expected plunge in Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.'s first-half profit and a cut to its dividend pushed its shares 0.4% lower, while Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd.'s swing to a loss for the fiscal first half took a 4.2% bite out of its share price. Among other earnings reporters, Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. rallied 4.6% after posting full-year profit more than triple the 2013 total, and Amcor Ltd. traded 2.5% higher after the packager posted a more modest 7% rise in its net income.

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