Australian stocks bubbled along near their previous closing mark, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.1% after an hour of trading Wednesday morning that saw the index move in and out of negative territory. The early highlights were mostly a straightforward story of resource shares tracking gains in the commodities markets. Energy shares rose after Brent crude futures hit their higherst level in more than a week overnight, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd. up 0.8%, Beach Energy Ltd. and Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. up 1% each, and Oil Search Ltd. up 0.7%. Among the miners, big gainers included Oz Minerals Ltd. (up 2%), Sandfire Resources (up 3.1%), and Alumina Ltd. (up 1.1%), though some of the iron and steel names saw weakness, including a 0.5% loss for Rio Tinto Ltd. , a 1% drop in BC Iron Ltd. , and a 2.8% fall for BlueScope Steel Ltd. . Likewise, gold's lowest close in two weeks saw Newcrest Mining Ltd. lose 1.1% and Evolution Mining Ltd. shed 1.2%. Strength in the banks, however, helped to support the market, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group up 0.7%, Macquarie Group Ltd. up 0.6% and National Australia Bank Ltd. up 0.5%.
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