Australia Stocks Ease Lower, But Some Miners Surging

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks traded lower in early Thursday action, and yet the losses were milder than those overnight in the U.S. as some scattered gainers among the mining stocks provided a bit of support. The S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3% after a 0.1% gain in the previous session, with energy shares a major weight due to a further retreat for oil futures. Stock in Woodside Petroleum Ltd. fell 2.6%, while Santos Ltd. lost 3.2%, and Oil Search Ltd. gave up 3.1% after warning in its production update of an impairment charge of at least $150 million due to the weak energy prices. Beach Energy Ltd. fell 3% following its own production report. Iron-ore prices also lost ground, but the iron miners were mixed, with BC Iron Ltd. down 2.2%, but larger rival Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. surging 4.9% after a production report that included a downward revision for the cost outlook and a halving of capital-spending guidance, according to Dow Jones Newswires. Atlas Iron Ltd. , which also cut its capex view but raised its output forecast, rallied 4.4%. Meanwhile, BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 0.2%, Rio Tinto Ltd. slipped 0.1%, and Oz Minerals Ltd. rose 2.2% after Macquarie raised its price target for the stock by 20%. Over in the banking sector, the majors were slightly lower after losses on Wall Street, with National Australia Bank Ltd. down 0.3%, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia down 0.2% each, but Westpac Banking Corp. down a more sizeable 0.8% amid news it was selling its businesses in five smaller Pacific-Island nations but keeping those in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. And shares of retailer Myer Holdings Ltd. rose 2% as UBS hiked its rating on the shares to neutral from sell.

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