Australia Stocks Slip Ahead Of Price Data; BHP Trades Lower

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks coasted downhill in early Wednesday action, with miners dragging on the market. About 45 minutes into the session, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.4%, although several reports said trading was cautious ahead of quarterly consumer-inflation data which could determine whether the central bank goes ahead with an interest-rate cut in May. Shares of BHP Billiton Ltd. declined 1.9% after the world's biggest mining company posted a strong quarterly rise in iron-ore output and raised its production guidance. Some commentary suggested the rising production at BHP suggested a further glut of iron ore, which could in turn depress already low prices. Stock in fellow senior miner Rio Tinto Ltd. lost 1.7%, while iron play Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. lost 1.5%. Banks slouched lower ahead of the inflation numbers, with Westpac Banking Corp. down 0.5%, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 0.7% and National Australia Bank Ltd. down 0.6% as it filed to sell shares of its stake in U.S. lender Great Western. On the upside, WorleyParsons Ltd. added 1.9%, extending recently strong gains, with a Dow Jones Newswires report citing chatter that the energy-services company could be a takeover target. And outshining other gold miners, Perseus Mining Ltd. blasted more than 12% higher on the back of a strong quarterly production report.

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