Australia Stocks Soften As Banks Lose Ground

Australian stocks started Tuesday little changed but quickly moved lower, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.4% about a half-hour into trade. The heavily weighted banks followed their U.S. peers, which had lost ground overnight amid jitters about Greece's future in the eurozone: National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. fell 1.1% each, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.6%, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group eased 0.4% lower, and Macquarie Group Ltd. retreated by 1%. Australian energy stocks saw gains, even as crude-oil futures began trimming their overnight gains in the early Asian morning. Oil Search Ltd. added 0.9%, Beach Energy Ltd. gained 1.7%, and WorleyParsons Ltd. rallied 2.5%, but Woodside Petroleum Ltd. fell 0.4%. Some ratings moves made news early Tuesday, with a Credit Suisse cutting Alumina Ltd. to neutral from outperform. Alumina shares were down 6.5%, though aluminum prices were little changed. Credit Suisse also cut James Hardie Industries SE to neutral from outperform, and its stock was 3.1% lower. And on the earnings front, Cochlear Ltd. rose 1.1% after posting fiscal-first-half profit more than triple what it did in the year-earlier period.

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