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Australia, N.Z. Stocks: BHP, Rio, Newcrest, Suncorp, Woodside

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell

1.6 percent to 4,624.30 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index declined 0.8 percent to 3,289.31 at the 5 p.m. close in Wellington.

The following were among the most active shares in the market today. Stock symbols are in parentheses after company names.

Mining shares: A measure of materials stocks led declines on the benchmark index as copper futures slumped 4.9 percent in New York yesterday after China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said his cabinet is drafting measures to counter the fastest inflation in two years.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s largest mining company, dropped 2.2 percent to A$43.47. BHP was also downgraded to “hold” from “buy” at Standard & Poor’s.

Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world’s third-biggest miner, slipped 3.2 percent to A$83.69.

Oil producers: Crude oil for December delivery fell 3 percent to $82.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, the lowest settlement price since Oct. 29.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, lost 2.9 percent to A$40.95. Santos Ltd. (STO AU) dropped 2.6 percent to A$12.76.

Gold producers: Gold futures for December delivery fell 2.2 percent to settle at $1,338.40 an ounce at 1:50 p.m. in New York yesterday.

Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia’s biggest gold producer, fell 2.7 percent to A$40. St. Barbara Ltd. (SBM AU) slumped 6.4 percent to 44 Australian cents.

Ausenco Ltd. (AAX AU), an engineering company, jumped 17 percent to A$2.91 after saying it returned to growth in the second half of 2010.

Duet Group (DUE AU) fell 4.1 percent to A$1.76. The energy asset investment company had its stock rating cut to “hold” from “buy” by analysts led by William Allott at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

Suncorp-Metway Ltd. (SUN AU) lost 2.6 percent to A$9.19. The Australian insurer and lender had its stock rating cut to “neutral” from “outperform” by analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG.

New Zealand:

Telecom Corp. of New Zealand (TEL NZ) sank 2.5 percent to A$2.11 after the company said it delayed its dividend re-investment plan.

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