Australia Stocks Take a Walk On The Downside, With Banks Lower

By Michael KitchenMarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks slouched in early Friday action, as losses for banking shares and the senior miners had the S&P/ASX 200 sitting 0.3% lower about 40 minutes into the session. The Big Four banks -- heavily weighted on the Sydney benchmark -- gave back some of their strong gains earlier in the week, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 0.7%, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia , National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. were all down 0.2% each. Among the miners, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Ltd. fell 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively, a day after Rio cut its iron-ore output guidance. Over in the energy space, Santos Ltd. gave up 1% after posting an almost 20% drop in revenue for the second quarter, while another weak day for oil futures had Beach Energy Ltd. and Oil Search Ltd. down 0.8% each. On the other hand, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. rose 1.2% after dropping the previous day when, like rival Santos, it posted lower quarterly revenue. Also on the upside, Whitehaven Coal Ltd. rallied 3.4%, basking in the glow of a Credit Suisse ratings upgrade to its shares, to outperform from neutral.

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