Australia Stocks Drop, With Miners Leading Losses

By Michael KitchenMarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks began Friday trade with sharp losses, as the mining shares dug a hole and many of the other blue chip followed down it. The S&P/ASX 200 slouched 1.8% lower in the first 40 minutes of trade, as the Greek crisis in Europe and a pullback for many commodities slammed the key mining and banking sectors. Among the miners, Rio Tinto Ltd. and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. lost 2.4% each, South32 Ltd. retreated by 3.4%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. gave up 3.2% a day after Dow Jones Newswires reported the resource major was cutting another 140 jobs amid weakness for the commodities. Over in the financial space, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group dropped 1.5%, Westpac Banking Corp. surrendered 1.8% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia was 1.3% softer. Meanwhile, shares of Qantas Airways Ltd. slid 2.5% after Hong Kong rejected the Australian carrier's plan to set up a budget airline in the Chinese territory. Rival Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. fell 1.7%.

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