Australian stocks moved higher in early Monday trade, with the S&P/ASX 200 rising 0.4% to defy downbeat cues from the index futures, thanks in large part to strength in the energy names and select mining shares. Although oil-futures prices remained weak, oil and gas stocks improved, possibly helped by bargain hunting after previous losses and a slip for the Australian dollar , which was buying 80.67 U.S. cents, down from the low 81-cent range during the last Sydney stock session. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. rose 1.1%, Caltex Australia Ltd. improved by 1.3%, Santos Ltd. added 1.5%, and Oil Search Ltd. gained 1.8%. Meanwhile, with only limited losses for gold, Newcrest Mining Ltd. added 2.1%, Evolution Mining Ltd. advanced 2.6%, and Perseus Mining Ltd. was 3.9% higher. As for the senior miners, BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 0.2%, but Rio Tinto Ltd. held at the flat-line as the Australian Financial Review said the company would announce a $5 billion share-buyback program next month. The heavily weighted financials started in negative territory but managed to pull higher half an hour into trade, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp. up 0.6% each, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group up 0.5%, and smaller rival Bank of Queensland Ltd. trading little changed after saying Jon Sutton would become its chief executive, replacing its former CEO, who left last summer.
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