Australia Stocks Shake Off Early Losses, But Banks Still Weak

By Michael KitchenMarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks came off their opening lows Monday to sit flat after about an hour of trade, with the S&P/ASX 200 down just fractionally. The big banks pulled back to weigh on the market, as Greece remained without a new bailout deal and with the markets awaiting testimony this week from Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group lost 1.1%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia eased 0.2% lower, and National Australia Bank Ltd. was down 0.3%, though investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd. managed to improve by 0.2% after a sharp Friday rally on Wall Street. Among the miners, iron-ore names gave up some of their strong gains at the end of the previous week (Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 0.4%, Arrium Ltd. down 1.9%, BC Iron Ltd. down 3.4%), but some of the gold miners followed the yellow metal higher (Newcrest Mining Ltd. up 1.9%, Perseus Mining Ltd. up 2.4%, Oz Minerals Ltd. up 3.3%). A drop for crude-oil futures pushed Oil Search Ltd. down 1.5% and Beach Energy Ltd. down 1.1%, but also helped support a 2.9% improvement for Qantas Airways Ltd. .

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