Australian stocks slouched further in early Wednesday trade, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3% an hour into the session, as strength for energy shares and many of the miners failed to offset weakness in the banks and retailers. Banking stocks were broadly weaker, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 0.5%, Macquarie Group Ltd. down 1.4%, and Westpac Banking Corp. down 0.3% after announcing it would split its banking operations into separate retail and business units. Meanwhile, a 6.9% fall in June's Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer-sentiment index slapped the retailers lower, with Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. down 1%, JB Hi-Fi Ltd. down 1.2% and Myer Holdings Ltd. down 1.7% after announcing the appointment of a new chief financial officer. On the upside, rallies of more than 3% for both Nymex and Brent oil futures helped push Beach Energy Ltd. up 2.8%, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. up 2.1%, and Oil Search Ltd. up 2.7%, while Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. jumped by 4.6%. Among the miners, Evolution Mining Ltd. rose 2.8%, Sandfire Resources gained 1.6%, Oz Minerals Ltd. added 0.6% and BHP Billiton Ltd. improved by 0.4%. A flat iron-ore price saw Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 1.7% but BC Iron Ltd. up 2%.
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