Australian stocks headed lower early Tuesday on the simple market logic of tracking commodity moves. About 30 minutes into trading, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.6%, eating most of Monday's 0.7% advance, as weak energy prices hit energy shares (and lifted airlines), while weaker metals (except gold) hurt the relevant mining stocks. To whit, a more-than-4% plunge in Nymex oil futures fed losses for Santos Ltd. (down 7%), Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (down 2.9%), Oil Search Ltd. (down 3.3%) and Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. (down 6%). Conversely, the cheaper crude helped push Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. up 1.2% and Qantas Airways Ltd. higher by 5.7%, a second day of monster gains for the carrier after it forecast a swing back to pre-tax profits. Meanwhile, disappointing Chinese trade data out during the previous session took a further toll on prices for iron-ore and some other key commodities. As a result, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. lost 3.6%, BC Iron Ltd. dropped 5.3%, and Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. saw 4.1% smacked off its share price. Likewise, BHP Billiton Ltd. gave up 2.5%, and Rio Tinto Ltd. lost 1.2%, but firmer gold futures ran Newcrest Mining Ltd. 1.1% higher, and Evolution Mining Ltd. up 2.7%, while St. Barbara Ltd. surged 9.4%. As for the heavily weighted banks shares, the group started in negative territory amid reported profit-taking following the previous day's rally for the sector. But the Big Four soon crawled out of the hole, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia up 0.3%, Westpac Banking Corp. up 0.7%, and National Australia Bank Ltd. and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group both flat.
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