Australian stocks took a turn for the worse in early Friday action, with the S&P/ASX 200 off 0.6%, slapped lower by a retreat in the heavily weighted bank and mining shares. Despite a reportedly mild bounce for iron-ore prices overnight, shares in Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. slumped 3.3% after rallying in the previous session on the company's positive outlook. Likewise, smaller rivals Arrium Ltd. and BC Iron Ltd. softened by 2.9% and 1.9%, respectively, though Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. managed to bounce 2.7% higher. Senior miners too were declining, with BHP Billiton Ltd. down 0.7% and Rio Tinto Ltd. off 1.3%, though Whitehaven Coal Ltd. rose 0.7% after reporting an 85% surge in output in the previous quarter. The "Big Four" banks were also a weight on the market, with National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. down 0.6% each, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.7% and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group fell 0.8%. The energy sector offered a bright spot, however, with Oil Search Ltd. up 1% and Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. rising 2.7% despite oil futures turning back down in early Asian trade. Fellow energy name Santos Ltd. advanced 1% after reporting higher production in the previous quarter but also lower revenue.
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