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Australian Market Declines

The Australian stock market is declining on Thursday, tracking the modest gains on Wall Street and weakness in base metal prices. Investors are cautious as they look ahead to the release of Australia's labor force data for August as well as Chinese economic data later in the day.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 8.20 points or 0.14 percent to 5,736.10, off a low of 5,726.30. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 4.80 points or 0.08 percent to 5,799.20.

Among miners, BHP Billiton is losing almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is down more than 1 percent, while Fortescue Metals is edging up less than 0.1 percent after base metals prices declined overnight.

South32 has reiterated its support for a carbon pricing mechanism, saying it is effective to reduce carbon emissions. The miner's shares are down more than 2 percent.

Gold miners are also weak after gold prices slipped overnight. Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent and Evolution Mining is down 1 percent.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.8 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher after crude oil prices rose. Santos is adding more than 1 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are up almost 1 percent each.

Macquarie Atlas Roads Group said it aims to raise A$450 million from investors to help fund the expansion of its stake in a French motorway network. The company's shares are losing almost 3 percent.

Myer Holdings reported a nearly 2 percent decline in underlying profit for the full year and said it will close a further three stores. Statutory profit for the year fell 80 percent. However, the department store giant's shares are rising 2 percent.

Vocus Group's shares are adding 0.6 percent despite law firm Slater and Gordon saying that a proposed class action would be brought against the company for allegedly engaging in "misleading and deceptive conduct" and breaching disclosure obligations.

In economic news, Australia will release August figures for unemployment today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar, which strengthened amid talks that the U.S. tax reform guidance is likely to be released before the end of September. In early trades, the local unit was trading at US$0.7984, down from US$0.8028 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher in choppy trading on Wednesday as traders stuck to the sidelines ahead of the release of some key economic data over the next couple of days. Traders also kept an eye on Washington, where House Speaker Paul Ryan revealed Republicans will release an outline of their tax reform plan the week of September 25th.

The Dow rose 39.32 points or 0.2 percent to 22,158.18, the Nasdaq inched up 5.91 points or 0.1 percent to 6,460.19 and the S&P 500 edged up 1.89 points or 0.1 percent to 2,498.37.

The major European markets ended mixed on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.3 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both rose by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Wednesday. WTI crude oil for October delivery jumped $1.07 to $49.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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