Australia Stocks Slip, With Energy Leading Retreat

Australian stocks traded softer in early Friday action, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3%, extending a 0.4% loss the day before. Energy shares led the retreat after an overnight plunge for crude-oil and natural-gas futures, as shares of Santos Ltd. dropped 2.4%, Oil Search Ltd. lost 2%, Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. gave up 2.2%, and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. was weaker by 1.6%. The miners were mostly lower as well, with BHP Billiton Ltd. down 0.7%, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. down 0.5%, and Oz Minerals Ltd. off 1.4%, though a couple iron-ore names rebounded from recent losses, with Atlas Iron Ltd. up 2.4% and BC Iron Ltd. higher by 2%. Among the few advancing sectors were the airlines, boosted by the further drop in oil prices, with Qantas Airways Ltd. up 0.1%, and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. adding 0.5%.

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