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Australian Market Modestly Lower

(RTTNews) - The Australian stock market is modestly lower on Monday following the sell-off on Wall Street Friday amid worries about global economic growth. Gains by mining stocks were more than offset by weakness in banks and oil stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 10.00 points or 0.18 percent to 5,592.00, after touching a low of 5,585.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 11.00 points or 0.19 percent to 5,667.80. Australian stocks closed lower on Friday.

The major miners are rising on higher iron ore prices and on their plans to return cash to shareholders. BHP and Rio Tinto are advancing more than 1 percent, while Fortescue Metals is up almost 1 percent.

BHP said it will pay another $5.2 billion to shareholders from the sale of its onshore U.S. assets through a special dividend of $1.02 per share on January 11, having already completed a $5.2 billion share buyback.

Rio Tinto said it has completed the $500 million sale of its French aluminium smelter, freeing up cash the mining giant said it will return to shareholders.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower on Friday. Evolution Mining is up 0.3 percent, while Newcrest Mining is down 0.2 percent.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking is losing more than 2 percent, while National Australia Bank and Westpac are lower by more than 1 percent each, and Commonwealth Bank is down 0.7 percent.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices fell on Friday. Oil Search is declining more than 1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is lower by 1 percent and Santos is down 0.6 percent.

Austal has won a contract to make another two combat vessels for the U.S. Navy, bringing the shipbuilder's forward order book to 10 ships by 2025. Austal's shares are rising more than 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is edging lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7174, down from $0.7193 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply lower on Friday amid renewed concerns about the outlook for global economic growth following the release of data showing disappointing industrial output and retail sales growth in China.

The Dow plunged 496.87 points or 2 percent to 24,100.51, the Nasdaq nosedived 159.67 points or 2.3 percent to 6,910.67 and the S&P 500 plummeted 50.59 points or 1.9 percent to 2,599.95.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Friday. While the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 0.9 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both fell by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil futures tumbled Friday on global economic growth concerns. WTI crude for January delivery tumbled $1.38 or 2.6 percent to $51.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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