Australia Stocks Weaken As Banks Retreat

MarketWatch Pulse

Australian stocks saw a weak open Monday, with the S&P/ASX 200 0.4% lower about 40 minutes into the session, taking a bite out of the benchmark's 0.8% gain on Friday. The heavily weighted banking stocks led the losses, with Westpac Banking Corp. dropping 3.7% as the shares traded without rights to the latest dividend, while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group lost 1.3%, National Australia Bank Ltd. retreated by 1%, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost a much milder 0.2%. CMC Markets said recent gains for the Sydney market placed it in an area of tenchincal resistance, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report. But gains for commodities helped the resource stocks to limit the market's fall, with gains for oil stocks (Oil Search Ltd. up 2%, WorleyParsons Ltd. up 1.4%), gold miners (Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. up 6.5%, Perseus Mining Ltd. up 10%) and iron-ore plays (Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. up 2.2%, Atlas Iron Ltd. up 8.5%). The moves followed better-than-expected Chinese October export growth -- though the increase was smaller than in September -- but came ahead of Chinese consumer and wholesale price data due out later in the day. China is Australia's top trading partner. Meanwhile, Qantas Airways Ltd. rose 2.1% despite the oil-price advance, with Deutsche Bank upping its rating on the stock to buy from hold and raising its target price by more than 60%.

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