Australian stocks rolled back and forth between gains and losses early Friday, with the S&P/ASX 200 flat an hour into the session, as miners, financials and other key sectors traded mixed. Shares of Rio Tinto Ltd. rose 1%, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. climbed 2.6% and Arrium Ltd. rallied 3% following another overnight gain for iron ore, but BHP Billiton Ltd. slipped 0.4%, South32 Ltd. lost 0.7% and Oz Minerals Ltd. gave back 1.1%. A sharp pullback for oil futures overnight ahead of this month's OPEC meeting weighed on the energy-related shares (Oil Search Ltd. down 1.4%, Santos Ltd. down 2%, WorleyParsons Ltd. down 1.5%), while financials were mixed ahead of U.S. jobs data, due after the close of Sydeny trade (Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 1%, National Australia Bank Ltd. down 1.3%, but Insurance Australia Group Ltd. and Macquarie Group Ltd. up 0.2% each). Shares in grocer Metcash Ltd. took a 4.8% drop as Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Macquarie and UBS all cut their price targets for the stock after Metcash announced a major writedown and omission of its dividend earlier this week.
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