Australia Stocks Move Higher On Banks, Energy Shares

Australian stocks slogged back uphill in early Thursday trades, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.3% to erase a 0.1% dip in the previous session. Financials moved higher, with National Australia Bank Ltd. up 0.3% despite posting an almost 10% drop in fiscal-year cash earnings, as the lender said it would exit its poorly performing businesses in the U.K. Meanwhile, Westpac Banking Corp. and Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.4% apiece, while Insurance Australia Group Ltd. improved by 1.4% after saying it was on track to meet its forecasts for the current fiscal year. Soft-drink bottler Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. saw its stock rise 4.8% after it projected an end to earnings-per-share profit declines after this year, also helped by news that Coca-Cola Co. would buy a stake in an Amatil-owned Indonesian unit. Also on the rise, Wesfarmers Ltd. gained 0.8% after unveiling quarterly sales gains for its Coles and Kmart units, though sales at its Target chain fell. Energy stocks also traded mostly higher on firming crude-oil and natural-gas prices, with Santos Ltd. up 1.2%, Oil Search Ltd. up 1.1% and Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. rising 1.4%. But weakness in the miners limited gains for the broader market, as BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 0.9%, Rio Tinto Ltd. lost 1.2%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. dropped 2% on a pullback for iron-ore prices. On the other hand, a two-week high for copper helped send Oz Minerals Ltd. 1% higher.

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