Australia Stocks Fall Modestly; Uranium Shares Make Big Moves

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Australian stocks headed lower Friday morning, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.4% to trim a little off its 1.4% advance the previous day. Weaker prices for oil, gold and other commodities hit the resource sectors, with Oil Search Ltd. down 1.4%, Evolution Mining Ltd. down 2.7%, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 1.2% each, and Rio Tinto Ltd. off 1.1%, getting little help from news the company was refinancing $1.2 billion in debt due next year. Shares of uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd. crashed by 47% after it announced it was canceling a key project as "the uranium market has not improved." That said, ERA's rival Paladin Energy Ltd. rallied 4.3% after the news. Shares of Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. lost 4.4% as airline stocks around East Asia have recently lost ground on concerns about possible spread of the MERS outbreak affecting South Korea. But Qantas Airways Ltd. -- whose U.S. partner American Airlines recently announced new flights between Los Angeles and Sydney -- lost a more modest 0.2%.

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