Australian stocks started the week broadly more expensive, as the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.6% Monday morning, on top of Friday's 0.5% advance. Among the gainers, Qantas Airways Ltd. rose 4.2% in early trade, getting some support from UBS raising its rating on the shares to buy from neutral and hiking the price target, with the move coming after Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline should report a swing to a pre-tax profit in the most recent quarter. For its part, UBS said Qantas should benefit from a 10% drop in jet-fuel prices (in Australian dollar terms), though it said rival Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. was under rising pressure to improve its bottom line, according to Dow Jones Newswires. Shares of Virgin fell 1.3% Monday morning. Banks traded higher ahead of their earnings reports, beginning with National Australia Bank Ltd. on Thursday. NAB stock rose 0.6%, as did shares in Commonwealth Bank of Australia , while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.4%, and Westpac Banking Corp. added 0.8%. However, weaker commodities prices dragged on miners, with BHP Billiton Ltd. down 0.3%, Rio Tinto Ltd. down 0.7%, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 1.9%, and Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. losing 2% after temporarily halting some work at its mine on Australia's Koolan Island due to instability in part of the main pit's walls. But gold-and-silver extractor Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. rose 2.6%, as the market indicated its approval of initial results from its Nueva Esperanza project in Chile. In other moves, CSL Ltd. improved by 1.1% after it struck a deal to buy the influenza-vaccine unit of Switzerland's Novartis AG .
Copyright © 2014 MarketWatch, Inc.