Australia's stocks slid lower in early Friday trading, with financials and energy names weighing on the market, along with a couple of weak earnings reports. The S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.4% about 45 minutes into the session, extending a 0.6% loss in the previous session, as Australian banks tracked their U.S. peers lower (National Australia Bank Ltd. down 0.6%, Westpac Banking Corp. down 1%, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 0.4%), while a one-month low for Nymex oil futures and a sharp drop for natural gas hit related shares (Beach Energy Ltd. down 3.5%, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. down 0.9%, Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. down 4%). Shares of Woolworths Ltd. sold down 8.9% after it reported a modest (3%) drop in first-half profit, but also said full-year earnings would come in at the low end of the expected range. GrainCorp Ltd. tool a 3.3% loss as it too warned on its full-year result, citing a smaller crop, among other issues. On the upside, Rio Tinto Ltd. rose 0.7% after announcing a restructuring that would shrink its total number of divisions to four, merging its uranium unit with that for diamonds and its coal unit with copper. Qantas Airways Ltd. rallied 3% after J.P. Morgan raised its target price for the shares, and Moody's removed the negative outlook on the airline's credit rating following the latest earnings results. And in the gold sector, news that Newcrest Mining Ltd. had cut its stake in rival Evolution Mining Ltd. to just below 15%, selling the shares at a discount to the previous closing price, sent Newcrest stock up 3.3% and Evolution down 9.1% to trade at the same price as cited in Newcrest's sale.
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