Australia Stocks Slip Lower As Resources Retreat

Australian stocks sat slightly weaker in early Tuesday trading, as bank shares advanced but resource stocks retreated in a reversal from the previous day's pattern. The S&P/ASX 200 was quoted down 0.1% after sitting flat for the initial minutes, with miners and energy shares heading lower. A sizeable drop for crude-oil futures hit the energy names (Oil Search Ltd. and Santos Ltd. down 1.1% each), while a similar fall for Comex gold dragged down the gold miners (Newcrest Mining Ltd. and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. down 4.9% each). With iron-ore prices languishing at their lowest levels in some five years, Citi analysts cut their 2015 forecast for the mineral. Amid all this, the iron-ore extractors saw broad losses, with Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 3.2%, Arrium Ltd. down 2.6%, and Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. losing 6.5%. The blue-chip financials, however, traded mostly higher after losing ground on Monday, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia up 0.5%, Westpac Banking Corp. up 0.4% following an ex-dividend drop the previous day, and National Australia Bank Ltd. edged up 0.1%. On the other hand, Suncorp Group Ltd. lost 0.3% as Bell Potter cut its rating on the shares to hold from buy, and J.P. Morgan warned of pressure on Suncorp's growth, though it kept its stock rating at neutral. And Incitec Pivot Ltd. , the fertilizer and explosives maker, saw its shares gain 3.8% after reporting a forecast-beating 21% rise in underlying profit.

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