Australia Stocks Ease, With Iron Miners Weak

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Australian stocks inched lower, unable to shrug off the ever-plunging price of iron ore as the market had done the previous session. With the additional weight of sizeable U.S. losses overnight, as well as caution ahead of Chinese manufacturing data due later in the day, the S&P/ASX 200 sat 0.2% lower about half an hour into trading. As iron-ore spot prices sat around $51 per metric ton for benchmark grade (with even deeper drops for the lower 58%-iron grade), Atlas Iron Ltd. fell 3.9%, BC Iron Ltd. lost 4.1%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. gave up 1.5%. For the senior miners, Rio Tinto Ltd. retreated 1.2%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. gave up 1.7%. Energy names were also broadly weaker, tracking losses for crude oil as talks to lift trade sanctions against Iran were reportedly extended. Santos Ltd. fell 2.2%, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. lost 1.3%, and Beach Energy Ltd. dropped 1%. Data from CoreLogic RP showing March gains for housing prices in Australian cities, led by rising Sydney real estate, offered little apparent help to the property-related shares, with Stockland and Leighton Holdings Ltd. down 0.1% each, while Lend Lease Group lost 0.3%. Telstra Corp. rose 0.8%, with news that the telecom-focused conglomerate's health unit had bought health-analysis firm Dr. Foster Ltd for an undisclosed amount.

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