Australia Stocks Suffer Hit From Miners, Health Shares

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Australia stocks softened in the heat of early Thursday trading, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.5%, giving back much of the previous day's 0.7% gain. Resources shares were once again a major factor, especially iron-ore extractors, as Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. fell 4.8%, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Ltd. lost 1.6% apiece, and BC Iron Ltd. and Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. retreated by 3.2% each. The moves coincided with a Reuters survey showing expectations for further weakness in iron ore, with 2015 prices forecast to average $56 per metric ton, down from a previous projection of $68 a ton made in January. Meanwhile, shares of ResMed Inc. plunged almost 18% lower after its treatment to combat both sleep apnea and heart failure failed a U.S. trial, according to Dow Jones Newswires. Other health-related shares also moved lower, with Ramsay Health Care Ltd. down 1.2%, and health-insurer NIB off 1.1%. And stock in agricultural major GrainCorp Ltd. dropped 4.4% after reporting a 40% fall in six-month profit due in part to a drought in eastern Australia.

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