Australian stocks opened slightly stronger Thursday but quickly saw their gains fade away, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1% about a half hour into trading. The heavily weighted "Big Four" banks all lost ground, getting no help from Wall Street's mixed lead, as Australia & New Zealand Banking Group fell 0.3%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank Ltd. lost 0.4% each, and Westpac Banking Corp. fell 1.1% after the lender said Chief Executive Gail Kelly would resign in February. While commodities prices showed a mostly weak tone overnight, miners were mixed, with BHP Billiton Ltd. up 0.5%, Rio Tinto Ltd. up 0.7%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. up 1%, but with Arrium Ltd. down 1%, Alumina Ltd. off 0.8%, and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. lower by 1.6%. Shares of GrainCorp Ltd. were down 1.1%, though off their earlier lows, as the agribusiness major reported a 64% plunge in annual profit due to poor weather hurting production. And among the retailers, Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. fell 1.1%, Woolworths Ltd. lost 0.4%, and Myer Holdings Ltd. retreated 1.7% after J.P. Morgan cut its price target on the stock, citing challenges to the company's outlook, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
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