Australian stocks came in for another round of punishment early Thursday, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 1.1% after dropping 1.9% in the previous session, with the banks and miners dragging the market lower. A halt to the recent rebound for iron-ore prices took Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 4.2%, Arrium Ltd. down 2.9% and BC Iron Ltd. down 5.6%, with Rio Tinto Ltd. down 1.2% but BHP Billiton Ltd. edging 0.2% higher. The heavily weighted Big Four banks extended their losses, as Australia & New Zealand Banking Group lost 2%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 1.8%, National Australia Bank Ltd. weakened by 2.3% and Westpac Banking Corp. surrendered 2.5%. Among the gainers, meanwhile, Santos Ltd. rallied 2.1% with the Australian Financial Review reporting that "private-equity players are understood to have approached the board with a view to picking off some individual assets." Shares of Insurance Australia Group Ltd. improved by 1.7%, rebounding from losses after it warned of heavy costs from recent storms in Australia. Stock in Ten Network traded 1% higher despite the company's booking heavy losses for the first half of the fiscal year and declining to offer a dividend. On the merger front, Dow Jones Newswires reported that iiNet Ltd. had asked TPG Telecom Ltd. to revise its takeover bid higher after a competing offer from M2 Group Ltd. . Shares of iiNet fell 2%, and those of TPG Telecom lost 2.3%, while M2 Group rose 0.8%.
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