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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