Australian stocks pulled sharpy lower in early Wednesday trade, dragged down by disappointing quarterly results, as well as a U.S. sell-off overnight and monetary concerns back home. The S&P/ASX 200 was 1.3% weaker about 30 minutes into trading, following a 1.2% loss for the S&P 500 in New York. In the previous session, the Sydney market had initially risen after the central bank cut the policy interest rate to a record low, but the ASX 200 ended the day fractionally lower. Rivkin Securities Chief Executive Scott Schuberg attributed that reversal to the removal of language in the monetary-policy statement that "further easing of policy may be appropriate over the period ahead," suggesting no more cuts for the time being. But Wednesday's true weak spot was in the heavily weighted financial sector, as Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 3.6% after posting flat cash earnings for the last quarter and saying its margins were under pressure. CBA's peers were likewise declining, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 1.3%, National Australia Bank Ltd. down 1.5%, Westpac Banking Corp. down 2.2%, and investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd. down 1.7%. Bourse operator ASX Ltd. suffered as well, falling 2.3% despite reporting a 4.1% rise in nine-month net profit. Over in the retail sector, Woolworths Ltd. lost 2.8% as a drop in gasoline prices marred its overall sales, which were down 1.6% in the fiscal third quarter compared to a year earlier. On the upside, solid gains for many commodities, including oil and iron ore, helped to lift the resource shares. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. rose 2.4%, Evolution Mining Ltd. added 1.9%, Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. climbed 2.6%, Santos Ltd. traded 1.5% higher, and Oz Minerals Ltd. improved by 1.6% as it announced a new chief financial officer. Shares of BHP Billiton Ltd. rose a more modest 0.4%, with its shareholders expected later in the day to approve a plan to spin off nickel, bauxite and other non-core assets into a new company, to be called South32.
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