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Australian Market Pares Losses

The Australian stock market is extending losses on Friday from the previous day following another tumble overnight on Wall Street in a volatile session. However, the market has pared initial losses and is now modestly lower, as weakness in banks and oil stocks were almost offset by gains in mining stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 7.90 point or 0.13 percent to 5,875.90, off a low of 5,846.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 5.80 points or 0.10 percent to 5,987.70. Australian shares fell sharply on Thursday, with the S&P/ASX 200 Index dipping to a five-month low.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac - are lower in a range of 0.3 percent to 1.3 percent as the banks faced intense questioning by a parliamentary committee over their governance failures.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices tumbled 3 percent overnight. Santos and Woodside Petroleum are declining almost 2 percent each, while Oil Search is losing almost 3 percent.

Among the big miners, BHP is rising more than 1 percent and Rio Tinto is advancing almost 2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is gaining more than 4 percent as iron ore and copper prices edged up overnight.

Fortescue Metals said Thursday it has launched a share buyback program of up to A$500 million.

Gold miners Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are rising more than 3 percent each after gold prices settled at a ten-week high as investors flocked to the safe-haven asset.

Fairfax Media said that its group revenue for the year-to-date period declined 5 percent from last year. Shares of Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment Co., which expect to complete their planned merger before December 31, are falling almost 14 percent and 13 percent respectively, following the announcement.

In the economic front, Australia will release August figures for new home loans today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7125, up from $0.7070 on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply lower on Thursday in a volatile session even though strength in the bond market contributed to a significant drop by treasury yields. Even with the decrease by yields, traders remained concerned about the outlook for the interest rates as well as the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

The Dow plunged 545.91 points or 2.1 percent to 25,052.83, the Nasdaq slumped 92.99 points or 1.3 percent to 7,329.06 and the S&P 500 plummeted 57.31 points or 2.1 percent to 2,728.37.

The major European markets also showed substantial moves to the downside on Thursday. While the German DAX Index slumped by 1.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index both dove by 1.9 percent.

Crude oil prices tumbled to more than two-week lows on Thursday following the release of a report showing a much bigger than expected weekly increase in crude oil inventories. WTI crude oil for November delivery plunged $2.20 or 3 percent to $70.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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