Australian stocks extended their recent losses, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3% in early Wednesday action on the back of a 0.6% drop Tuesday. Among the top decliners, Insurance Australia Group Ltd. retreated by 4.1% after updating investors on its expected costs from recent heavy storms in Australia, with weather damage from last week alone likely to run to $200 million. Likewise, QBE Insurance Group Ltd. fell 0.4%, while Suncorp Group Ltd. retreated 1.5%. Retail major Wesfarmers Ltd. saw its shares ease 0.6% after releasing its quarterly sales reults, which showed a gain for overall food and liquor sales, but slowing sales at its Coles Express chain. Other retails were even weaker, however, with JB Hi-Fi Ltd. down 2%, Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. down 1.5%, and Woolworths Ltd. down 0.9%. Resource shares helped to limit the broader market's losses, however, with further gains for the iron-ore spot price (now just below $60 per metric ton), helping Arrium Ltd. rise 4.1% and Mt. Gibson Iron Ltd. gain 4.8%, though Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. lost 2.5%. Gold miners also improved, with Newcrest Mining Ltd. and Evolution Mining Ltd. up 2.4% each, while Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. added 1.4% as The Wall Street Journal reported the company would name a former AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. senior official as its new chief executive. The miners' gains came despite a surge overnight in the Australian dollar , which rallied by more than 1.5 U.S. cents to top 80 U.S. cents, according to Dow Jones Newswires data. Wednesday losers possibly linked to the forex move included globally exposed names such as biopharma company CSL Ltd. (down 1.2%) and building-materials name James Hardie Industries SE (down 1.1%).
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