Australia Stocks Lose Ground, With Banks, Qantas Among Decliners

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks rode lower early Thursday on the back of losses for banks, iron-ore miners and retailers, among others. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was 0.9% lower in the first hour of action. Losers among the big banks and insurers, which tracked a pullback for their U.S. counterparts overnight, included Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (down 1.1%), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (down 1%), Macquarie Group Ltd. (down 1.4%) and Suncorp Group Ltd. (down 1%). Likewise, iron-ore miners followed the commodity's overnight price decline to trade substantially lower, including a 2.1% drop for Arrium Ltd. and a 5.9% drubbing for Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. , while senior miners BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Ltd. declined 0.4% and 1.3%, respectively. Similar losses for crude-oil futures helped push Oil Search Ltd. down 2.3% and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. down 1.3%, but Caltex Australia Ltd. bopped 2.9% higher as Macquarie hiked it price target on the name and upgraded it to neutral from underperform. An Australian Financial Review report that Qantas Airways Ltd. was set to announce that its budget carrier Jetstar was expanding significantly in New Zealand appeared to weigh on Qantas shares, which fell 2%, even as Air New Zealand Ltd. tumbled almost 10% in Wellington stock trade. Retailers were also in retreat, with Woolworths Ltd. down 1.6% a day after cutting its earnings outlook and announcing the departure of its chief executive. Among its peers, Wesfarmers Ltd. lost 1.8%, while major retailers Myer Holdings Ltd. and JB Hi-Fi Ltd. were down 2.7% and 1.3%, respectively.

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