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BHP, Origin, Harvey Norman, Woodside: Australian Equity 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. 17. All prices are from that day’s close unless otherwise stated.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index futures contract due in March advanced 0.2 percent to 4,767 as of 7:59 a.m. in Sydney. The Bank of New York Australia ADR Index slipped 0.2 percent. The S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 0.4 percent to 4,763.10.

Mining shares: A measure of metals traded in London gained 1 percent. Copper advanced 0.9 percent, zinc 2.5 percent, and nickel 1.2 percent.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s largest mining company, sank 0.8 percent to A$45.03. Its American depositary receipts dropped 0.6 percent in New York trading.

Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world’s third-biggest miner, retreated 1.6 percent to A$85.65 in Sydney.

Oil producers: Crude for January delivery climbed 0.4 percent to settle at $88.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, lost 0.5 percent to A$43.17.

Gold producers: Gold futures for February delivery rose 0.6 percent to settle at $1,379.20 an ounce on the Comex in New York. Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia’s biggest gold producer, slipped 1.7 percent to A$40.77.

Retailers: Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. (HVN AU), Australia’s largest furniture and electrical retailer, and Premier Investments Ltd. (PMV AU), a clothing seller, are among retailers who criticized a government inquiry into the future of retailing announced at the weekend, saying the probe will be too slow to tackle the danger from the growth in online purchases from abroad.

The government will resist pressure from retailers to act more quickly in tackling the threat to businesses from goods sold by offshore websites, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said in an interview with Bloomberg News yesterday. Harvey Norman was unchanged at A$3.01 and Premier shares climbed 2.8 percent to A$6.33.

Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG AU): The Australian electricity and gas retailer is in talks with companies including China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production Pcl over the sale of stakes in its Queensland liquefied natural gas project, the Weekend Australian reported. Origin spokesman Tim Scott told Bloomberg News by telephone that the company doesn’t comment on speculation. Origin shares fell 0.9 percent to A$17.

Centro Properties Group (CNP AU): The Australian shopping-mall owner has received initial bids for some of its shopping mall assets, with Westfield Group, Lend Lease Group and CFS Retail Trust among the potential buyers, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, without saying where it got the information. Centro’s shares were unchanged at 14.5 Australian cents.

Lend Lease Group (LLC AU): Australia’s largest developer was downgraded to “neutral” from “overweight” at JPMorgan Chase & Co. The stock gained 2 percent to A$8.57.

Westfield Group (WDCDA AU): The world’s largest owner of shopping centers was downgraded to “neutral” from “outperform” at Macquarie Group Ltd., according to Bloomberg data. The stock lost 2.8 percent to A$9.60.

Telstra Corp. (TLS AU): Telstra and NBN Co., which is building the Australian government’s national broadband network, are unlikely to sign a final agreement this week, the Australian Financial Review said, citing unnamed sources. NBN has revised parts of the plan, details of which are due to be made public today, the newspaper said. Telstra shares rose 0.7 percent to A$2.77.

Wesfarmers Ltd. (WES AU): Wesfarmers’ fertilizer unit CSBP is among parties interested in buying Burrup Fertilizers, the Australian newspaper reported, without citing anyone. Shares in Wesfarmers, which has businesses ranging from coal mines to home improvement stores, slipped 0.3 percent to A$31.52.

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