Australian stocks trudged higher in early Monday moves, with strength in some of the top energy and mining names overcoming weakness in the big banks. The S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.3% about an hour into the trading day, rising the face of significant losses for shares of the top banks, which hold a large weighting in the benchmark index. Westpac Banking Corp. led the sector lower, dropping 3.4% after posting a fall in cash earnings, missing analysts' consensus forecast as reported by The Wall Street Journal. This in turn dragged on the other members of the "Big Four": Australia & New Zealand Banking Group lost 1.5%, National Australia Bank Ltd. fell 1.2%, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia retreated 0.9%. On the upside, however, top miner BHP Billiton Ltd. rallied 2.1% ahead of its shareholder vote due later this week on spinning off some of its non-core assets into a new company. Rival Rio Tinto Ltd. rose 1.9%, while Whitehaven Coal Ltd. added 2.8%, and gold miners Newcrest Mining Ltd. and Evolution Mining Ltd. improved by 1.5% and 2%, respectively. Energy stocks also outperformed, emboldened by Brent North Sea crude-oil futures holding strong above the $66-a-barrel level. Among the big names, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. rose 0.9%, Santos Ltd. traded 1.4% higher, and Caltex Australia Ltd. gained 1.1%. However, energy-services major WorleyParsons Ltd. plunged 9.6% after announcing an almost $100 million writedown for the current fiscal year, as well as plans to cut thousands of jobs.
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