Australia Stocks Fall Ahead Of China Data

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks moved decisively to the downside early Monday, with gains for some major miners unable to offset losses from financials and energy names. The S&P/ASX 200 sat 1% lower at 5,136.90, extending a more-than-2% plunge on Friday, though the market held the potential to move signficantly on Chinese trade data due out later in the day. Given a Friday pullback for U.S. shares that followed the rout in Sydney, Australian financials started the week with a deficit, as Macquarie Group Ltd. lost 1.6%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp. gave up 1% each, and Suncorp Group Ltd. retreated by 1.2%. Meanwhile, with both Nymex and Brent crude-oil futures off by more than 1% in electronic action, energy stocks saw a broad decline, with Oil Search Ltd. down 1.8%, Caltex Australia Ltd. down 1.7%, and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. down 1.1%, although Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. managed to hold at the flatline after updating shareholders on its latest buyback in a stock-repurchase program. Despite the easing oil price, shares of Qantas Airways Ltd. lost 2.1%, with the move coinciding with news that foreign ownership of the airline had risen to almost 48% as of mid-September, up from just below 45% in late August. Qantas, Australia's flag carrier, is forbidden by law to sell more than 49% of its stock to foreign interests. On the upside, some of the volatile gold-miner stocks rallied, as Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. added 1.5%, St. Barbara Ltd. improved by 3.9%, and Perseus Mining Ltd. added 3.5%. Likewise, iron-ore extractors saw some gains, with Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. up 0.5%, Atlas Iron Ltd. up 1.3%, and larger rival Rio Tinto Ltd. edging 0.1% higher, though BHP Billiton Ltd. headed lower by 0.5%. Shares of Stockland inched down 0.1%, reversing from an early gain, as the market digested news that the company had bought 50% of a Queensland shopping mall -- Sugarland Shoppingtown in Bundaberg -- for just over $51 million.

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