Australian stocks wound their way lower in early Wednesday trading, with the S&P/ASX 200 0.5% softer to pare a 0.9% advance in the previous session. Despite a further climb for spot iron-ore prices, BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 2%, Rio Tinto Ltd. fell 1.1% and Arrium Ltd. sat flat, though BC Iron Ltd. rose 1.2% and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. managed to add 1% after zooming about 11% higher on Tuesday in reaction to a report that Chinese companies could invest in Fortescue. Among the financials, National Australia Bank Ltd. lost 0.7% and AMP Ltd. dropped 1.2% after overnight losses on Wall Street, while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group edged 0.1% higher and Westpac Banking Corp. was flat. Shares of Suncorp Group Ltd. limited their loss to 0.2% as the insurer announced an almost $60 million investment to optimize its operations. On the upside, James Hardie Industries SE improved by 1.2% after U.S. April new-home sales printed stronger than expected. Likewise, losses for energy futures helped Qantas Airways Ltd. to rise 0.9%, while Oil Search Ltd. lost 0.3%, and a more-than-2% drop for natural gas appeared to help drive Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. 4.1% lower.
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