Australian stocks ducked down in early Thursday moves, as some scattered good news on the earnings front couldn't offset losses for the key mining and financial sectors. The S&P/ASX 200 deflated by 0.6% in the first half hour, with a drop for spot iron-ore prices tormenting the relevent miners, including Atlas Iron Ltd. (down 4%), Arrium Ltd. (down 2.2%), Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. (down 3.2%) and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (down 0.8%). Other mining names were more mixed, with BHP Billiton Ltd. up 0.1%, Oz Minerals Ltd. up 0.3%, Independence Group NL down 1.1%, and Newcrest Mining Ltd. down 0.4%. Financials were also broadly weaker, as Macquarie Group Ltd. fell 0.9%, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.5% each, and Bank of Queensland Ltd. gave up 1.1% after announcing a writedown on its customer-relationship management system. Among those reporting earnings, Qantas Airways Ltd. rallied 3.4% after its pretax profit beat its previous guidance, as its international division returned to profit. Media company Nine Entertainment Co. Holdings surged 9.4% after its results, as the company announced a share buyback and kept its full-year outlook unchanged. But on the downside, Billabong International Ltd. fell 2.3% despite opening with solid gains after reporting a return to profit in the second half of 2014. Likewise, Sydney Airport lost 2.9% in the wake of its earnings.
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