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Australian Market Retreats After Positive Start

The Australian stock market opened higher Friday on positive cues from Wall Street, but retreated to lower levels subsequently with mining stocks turning weak on selling pressure.

Healthcare and industrial stocks are among the other notable losers. Consumer discretionary and information technology stocks are edging higher, while financial, energy and property trusts stocks are mostly flat.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which advanced to 4,734.6 in early trades, is currently trading at 4,714.2, down 8.8 points or 0.2 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 6.2 points at 4,739, around 18 points off an early high of 4,757.2.

Top miners BHP Billiton (BHP, BBL) and Rio Tinto (RIO, RIO.L) are down by around 1.5 percent.

Sydney Airport is down 3.2 percent. Iluka Resources, Aristocrat Leisure, Atlas Iron and Downer EDI are trading lower by 2 to 2.4 percent. Centro Retail Australia, Fortescue Metals, David Jones, James Hardie Industries and Incitec Pivot are down 1.3 to 1.6 percent.

Transurban is down 0.8 percent. The company announced that toll revenue for the three months to December 31, 2012, was up 4.9 percent at A$202.6 million, as compared to the corresponding quarter last year. That took toll revenue for the first half of 2012-2013 to A$397.7 million, up 3.1 percent from the previous corresponding period.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac (WBK) are up 0.3 to 0.5 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading flat. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland are up 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Fairfax Media is up nearly 4 percent. Perseus Mining is trading 2.8 percent up, while Myer Holdings, Commonwealth Property Office Fund and Alumina (AWC) are up 2 to 2.2 percent.

Seek Limited shares are trading more than 2 percent up on reports the company is increasing its stake in Chinese employment website Zhaopin. Seek said it will buy Zhaopin shares from Macquarie and other exiting shareholders for A$99.52 million to take its ownership level from 55.5 percent to 72.3 percent. The company will then launch an offer to other Zhaopin shareholders that could further increase its ownership to about 79 percent.

PanAust and Echo Entertainment Group are trading higher by 1.8 percent and 1.7 percent respectively.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher and was quoting at US$1.0595 in early trades, up from Thursday's close of US$1.0549.

On Wall Street, stocks ended higher on Thursday, thanks largely to upbeat trade data from China. While the Dow rose 80.7 points or 0.6 percent to 13,471.2, the Nasdaq climbed 16 points or 0.5 percent to 3,121.8 and the S&P 500 advanced 11.1 points or 0.8 percent to 1,472.1.

Major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index edged up 0.1 percent, the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index declined by 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil ended higher on Thursday, with strong Chinese trade data aiding its surge. Crude for February delivery ended up 72 cents at $93.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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