March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell for a third day, dropping 0.5 percent to 4,803.20 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slid 0.1 percent to 3,381.99 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 companies: Copper, zinc and lead declined for a second day in London as oil traded above $100 a barrel, boosting concern that inflation may accelerate and global growth slow.
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s No. 1 mining company, slid 0.7 percent to A$46.05. Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), which is vying to take control of Riversdale Mining with a A$3.9 billion ($3.95 billion) takeover offer, lost 0.7 percent to A$84.12.
Riversdale (RIV AU) retreated 3.4 percent to A$14.97 amid concern that Rio Tinto may not get full control after Tata Steel Ltd. raised its stake in the smaller coal producer.
Mumbai-based Tata Steel, Riversdale’s biggest shareholder, raised its stake to 27.1 percent from 24.2 percent. This comes after Brazil’s Cia Siderurgica Nacional SA last month increased its stake to 19.9 percent.
Gold producers: Gold traded near a record and silver advanced to the highest level since 1980 as surging oil prices boosted demand for the metals as haven investments and hedges against inflation.
Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia’s biggest gold producer, climbed 1.9 percent to A$38.41. Rival St. Barbara Ltd. (SBM AU) rose 5.5 percent to A$2.13.
AMP Ltd. (AMP AU) fell 0.9 percent to A$5.30. Australia’s second-largest asset manager said it welcomed a decision by Treasurer Wayne Swan to approve its A$13.2 billion joint takeover with Axa SA of Axa Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd. (AXA AU).
The approval is subject to a number of conditions around employment, to which AMP has agreed, the company said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange. AXA Asia Pacific’s shares gained 1.3 percent to A$6.41.
Austar United Communications Ltd. (AUN AU) soared 11 percent to A$1.25, the biggest advance in more than two years, after it said rival pay-television operator Foxtel is in talks to buy the company from billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global Inc. The company did not elaborate on financial terms.
The Australian Financial Review reported Foxtel may offer A$2 billion for Austar.
Boral Ltd. (BLD AU) dropped 2.6 percent to A$5.35 after Deutsche Bank AG downgraded Australia’s largest seller of building materials to “sell” from “hold” with a 12-month share-price estimate of A$5.
GUD Holdings Ltd. (GUD AU) advanced 2.5 percent to A$9.54 after Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc raised its recommendation for the maker of electrical appliances to “buy” from “hold.”
Metcash Ltd. (MTS AU) slid 0.5 percent to A$4. Australia’s largest grocery wholesaler cut its annual earnings forecast amid a slowdown in consumer spending and floods in two states. Underlying earnings per share will rise by between 3 percent and 5 percent in the 12 months ended April, compared with an earlier forecast for growth of as much as 8 percent, it said.
Murchison Metals Ltd. (MMX AU) jumped 4.7 percent to A$1.45 after the company and Mitsubishi Corp. were granted an extra nine months to decide whether to build a A$4.3 billion iron-ore rail and port development in Western Australia.
Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN AU), Australia’s largest airline, dropped 2.2 percent to A$2.28 while rival Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. (VBA AU) sank 2.8 percent to 34.5 Australian cents.
Airlines retreated as crude oil climbed above $100 a barrel amid continued turmoil in the Middle East.
Ten Network Holdings Ltd. (TEN AU) lost 1.1 percent to A$1.31 after James Packer resigned from the broadcaster’s board, which he only joined in December. The company also appointed James Warburton as chief executive officer after firing Grant Blackley last week. He will assume the role from July 14, replacing acting CEO Lachlan Murdoch.
Warburton joins Ten Network from rival Seven Group Holdings Ltd. (SVW AU). Seven declined 2 percent to A$9 after rallying 3.7 percent the previous two days.
Goodman Fielder Ltd. (GFF NZ) slid 1.8 percent to NZ$1.61 after Macquarie Research downgraded Australia’s largest baker to “underperform” from “neutral.”
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