Australia stocks started lower Friday, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1%, inching back from a strong 1.9% gain the previous session. Banking shares were broadly weaker after a mostly negative lead from the U.S., with Commonwealth Bank of Australia , National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. all 0.3% lower, though Australia & New Zealand Banking Group managed to erase an early loss to trade 0.2% higher. A further retreat for iron ore hit the miners (Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 1.7%, Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. down 2.3%), while a more-than-2.5% plunge for Brent crude futures overnight dragged on most of the energy names (Santos Ltd. down 0.6%, Beach Energy Ltd. down 0.5%). Also among the energy stocks, Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. belly-flopped almost 15% lower after saying its Kangaroo West well had failed to find hydrocarbons, while Woodside Petroleum Ltd. lost 1%, even as it confirmed its output targets following the reopening of its Pluto LNG project. Over in the media sector, stock in APN News & Media Ltd. rallied 8.5% a day after News Corp. said it had bought roughly 10% of the company, raising its total stake in APN to about 15%. News Corp. -- which is the corporate parent of MarketWatch -- fell 0.7%, while the company that sold it the shares, Ireland's Independent News & Media PLC, closed 8.6% higher in Dublin on Thursday.
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