Australia Stocks Rise, With Woolworths Up After Change In Leadership

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks went bounding higher early Wednesday, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.8% after a mildly negative close the previous session, as bank stocks made a strong showing. Among the financial blue chips, Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 1.6%, Westpac Banking Corp. improved by 1.9%, Macquarie Group Ltd. advanced 1.3% and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group gained 1.8% as Dow Jones Newswires said the company was "actively seeking buyers" for some of its portfolio of loans to commodity trading house Noble Group Ltd. . But Woolworths Ltd. stole the spotlight, as the retailer announced the departure of Chief Executive Grant O'Brien, lowered its profit outlook and said it will likely cut about 1,200 jobs. Shares of Woolworths rose 1.9%. On the downside, iron-ore miners beat a retreat, with Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. dropping 4.3%, Arrium Ltd. sliding 5.5% lower, and Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. down 1.4%, though the senior miners rose, with Rio Tinto Ltd. up 0.2%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. higher by 0.4%. Also in the mining space, shares of Alumina Ltd. surrendered 2.2% as Credit Suisse cut the shares to neutral after raising them to outperform in April. The Swiss bank cited expectations for weaker commodity prices in explaining its turn in sentiment.

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