Sunday, February 10, 2008

Australian Stocks Fall, Led by Banks; David Jones, Ansell Rise

By Ian C. Sayson

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Australian financial stocks declined, paced by Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp. on concern corporate defaults will increase in the U.S., further curtailing the availability of credit.

David Jones Ltd. and Ansell Ltd. advanced after both companies reported higher earnings.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index slid 60.50, or 1.1 percent, to 5,597.50 as at 10:33 a.m. in Sydney. The broader All Ordinaries Index lost 1 percent to 5,688.10, while the futures index maturing in March fell 0.3 percent to 5,575.

Commonwealth Bank, the nation's No.2 lender, dropped A$1.31, or 2.6 percent, to A$48.83, heading for its biggest loss in a week. Westpac, the fourth-biggest bank, slid 50 cents, or 2 percent, to A$24.47, heading for its fifth drop in six days.

U.S. stocks declined last week, sending the market to its first weekly decline since mid-January, after measures of corporate credit risks climbed to records.

David Jones, Australia's second-largest department store chain, added 17 cents, or 4.1 percent, to A$4.34, heading for its biggest gain since Jan. 24. The company said net income increased as much as 25 percent to between A$87.5 million ($78 million) and A$89 million in the six months ended Jan. 26, exceeding its previous forecast of as much as 13 percent.

Ansell, the world's biggest maker of surgical gloves, jumped 52 cents, or 4.5 percent, to A$12.02, its biggest gain in three weeks. Ansell said first half profit increased 28 percent to A$56.9 million.

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