Australia Stocks Lose Opening Gain Amid Greek Uncertainty

Australian stocks opened a little higher Thursday as financials gained on hopes of a European Union deal for Greece to continue to receive aid, but the market then pulled back as comments out of Brussels indicated no agreement yet, with talks to continue Monday. The S&P/ASX 200 was flat about half an hour into the session, with National Australia Bank Ltd. , Macquarie Group Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. all down 0.3% each, though Australia & New Zealand Banking Group edged up 0.1%. Earnings news was also a prime mover of stocks early in the session, with positive results for Telstra Corp. lifting its shares 0.5%, but with bourse-operator ASX Ltd. down 0.1% as its roughly 5% growth in fist-half profit failed to impress investors. The ghosts of earnings past also haunted the market, as Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.9% on the second day after its earnings announcement, as J.P. Morgan and Bell Potter both cut their ratings on the name. Likewise, Macquarie's downgrade of Oz Minerals Ltd. to neutral from outperform appeared a factor in that stock's 2.9% fall. Meanwhile, Santos Ltd. was down 2.7% after announcing a $1.2 billion writedown as oil prices slump. On the other hand, the market got some support from the major miners, with BHP Billiton Ltd. rising 0.8%, and Rio Tinto Ltd. up 1.2% ahead of its earnings results.

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