Australian stocks coasted lower, as carnage for some of the blue-chip resource shares led the market lower Wednesday morning. The S&P/ASX 200 was down a modest 0.1%, with miners suffering from a fresh drop for iron-ore prices, as well as significant losses for crude oil, gold and other key commodities, driven in large part by a rising U.S. dollar. Among the major mining shares, BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 2.8%, Rio Tinto Ltd. dropped 2.4%, South32 Ltd. retreated 3.2%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. surrendered 5.9%. Likewise, Oz Minerals Ltd. lost 1.5%, and gold miners Newcrest Mining Ltd. and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. softened by 0.6% each, but Evolution Mining Ltd. fell by a heavier 3.4%. Sharp losses for crude oil took a similar toll on the relevent shares, with Santos Ltd. down 4.1%, Oil Search Ltd. down 2.2%, and Beach Energy Ltd. down 3%. Retailers had a mixed reaction to a 6.4% improvement in this month's Westpac consumer-sentiment index, with Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. up 0.5% and JB Hi-Fi Ltd. up 0.2%, but Woolworths Ltd. dropping 1.8%, and Wesfarmers Ltd. down 1% as it conducted a strategy briefing for investors. Banks were likewise mixed, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia up 0.1% and Macquarie Group Ltd. up 0.7%, but Westpac Banking Corp. down 0.3% and National Australia Bank Ltd. down 0.5%.
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