AMP, BHP, Macarthur, Qantas, Woodside: Australian Stock Preview

The following is a list of companies whose shares may have unusual moves in Australia. The preview includes news announced after markets closed on Dec. 3. All prices are from that day’s close unless otherwise stated.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index futures contract due in December rose

0.1 percent to 4,715 as of 7:59 a.m. in Sydney. The Bank of New York Australia ADR Index gained 1.3 percent. The S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.4 percent to 4,694.20.

Mining shares: A measure of metals traded in London dropped

0.5 percent.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s largest mining company, rose 0.6 percent to A$44.59. Its American depositary receipts climbed 1.4 percent in New York trading.

Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world’s third-biggest miner, gained 1.7 percent to A$86.42.

Rio Tinto is in talks to buy Riversdale Mining Ltd. (RIV AU) for about A$15 a share, the London-based Daily Telegraph said, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Separately, Rio and its largest shareholder, Aluminum Corp. of China, agreed to jointly seek and develop coking coal and copper deposits in China.

Oil producers: Crude oil rose to the highest level in 25 months as the dollar tumbled.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, climbed 0.4 percent to A$42.21. Rival Santos Ltd. (STO AU) added 0.5 percent to A$12.63.

Gold producers: Gold futures topped $1,400 an ounce as the dollar’s slump boosted the appeal of precious metals as alternative investments.

Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia’s biggest gold producer, gained 0.8 percent to A$40.74.

Financial shares: Australia’s four biggest banks face the prospect of mounting competition after Treasurer Wayne Swan urged customers to turn to credit unions and building societies as he prepares a reform package for the industry.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA AU), Australia’s largest bank by market value, advanced 0.3 percent to A$49.43.

AMP Ltd. (AMP AU): The company, which is buying the Australian and New Zealand units of Axa Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd., said it plans to use the deal to compete with the wealth- management businesses of Australia’s four largest banks. AMP shares dropped 0.6 percent to A$5.11.

ASX Ltd. (ASX AU): The exchange operator that’s agreed to be bought by Singapore Exchange Ltd., plans to step up the defense of the transaction to counter concern the deal will weaken Australia’s sovereignty and regulatory powers.

“In the near future, ASX will release information that outlines how the proposal advances Australia’s national interest and informs much of the criticism,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Elstone wrote in the Australian newspaper. ASX shares slipped 0.2 percent to A$37.93.

David Jones Ltd. (DJS AU): The retailer is maintaining its forecast of a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in profit in the 2010-11 financial year, even as recent wet weather weakened sales, the Australian newspaper reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Paul Zahra. The stock fell 0.7 percent to A$4.39.

JB Hi-Fi Ltd. (JBH AU): The Australian electronics retailer said it may be able to match last year’s Christmas sales, even after a slow start to the period, the Australian Financial Review reported. Chief Executive Officer Terry Smart said there are some positive signs for the retailer and momentum is building, according to the newspaper. Its shares sank 1 percent to A$18.35.

Macarthur Coal Ltd. (MCC AU): The world’s largest producer of pulverized coal used in steelmaking said unseasonal heavy rain in Queensland’s Bowen Basin forced the company to declare force majeure on deliveries to customers. Macarthur shares declined 1.4 percent to A$12.13.

Myer Holdings Ltd. (MYR AU): Chief Executive Officer Bernie Brookes said the decline in Australian retail sales is likely to continue, the Australian newspaper reported. Brookes, head of the nation’s biggest department store chain, said he thought sales in November would be even worse than the 1.1 percent decline recorded in October, according to the newspaper. Myer shares lost 0.3 percent to A$3.54.

Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG AU): The Australian electricity and gas retailer said it will consider raising equity should the company buy assets from the New South Wales state government. Origin shares climbed 0.5 percent to A$16.12.

Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN AU): Investigators found the engine that exploded on a Qantas A380 en route to Sydney from Singapore last month was removed last year to clean metal fragments, the Australian reported, citing a government report. Qantas shares rose 1.9 percent to A$2.69.

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