Australian Market Declines

The Australian stock market is declining on Friday amid low trading volumes despite the modest gains overnight on Wall Street and a rise in commodity prices. Gains by miners were more than offset by weakness in banking and oil stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 32.00 points or 0.53 percent to 6,056.10, off a low of 6,051.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 30.70 points or 0.50 percent to 6,158.70.

The big four banks – ANZ Banking, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank – are lower in a range of 0.3 percent to almost 1 percent.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is declining 0.5 percent, Oil Search is lower by 0.2 percent and Santos is down 0.1 percent despite crude oil prices edging higher overnight.

Meanwhile, the major miners are mostly higher. BHP Billiton is adding 0.1 percent and Rio Tinto is up 0.5 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are mixed despite gold prices extended gains to a sixth straight session overnight. Newcrest Mining is adding more than 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is losing 0.2 percent.

QBE Insurance said it has agreed to pay A$132.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit by its shareholders who were angry about a plunge in its share price in 2013. The insurance giant’s shares are losing 0.6 percent.

Confectionary maker Yowie Group has placed its shares in a trading halt ahead of a company announcement.

On the economic front, Australia will see November results for private sector credit today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is little changed against the U.S. dollar on Friday. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7794, compared to US$0.7797 on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Thursday in another lackluster performance, partly having reflected so-called window dressing, as investors looked to polish their portfolios going into the end of the year. Nonetheless, many traders remained away from their desks ahead of the New Year’s weekend, leading to another light trading day.

The Dow climbed 63.21 points or 0.3 percent to 24,837.51, the Nasdaq edged up 10.82 points or 0.2 percent to 6,950.16 and the S&P 500 rose 4.92 points or 0.2 percent to 2,687.54.

European stocks mostly moved to the downside on Thursday. The German DAX Index slid by 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index dropped by 0.6 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index closed just above the unchanged line.

Crude oil…

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