market wrap from bloomberg

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    Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Drops From a Record, Led by BHP, Rio
    Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index fell from a record, led by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group as copper prices declined, threatening to crimp earnings.

    The S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 30.50, or 0.7 percent, to 4641.20 at the 4:10 p.m. close in Sydney. The index, which closed at an all-time high yesterday, earlier gained as much as 0.2 percent. About 13 stocks fell for every five that rose.

    The benchmark posted a gain this quarter of 8.5 percent, its tenth consecutive quarterly advance, the longest winning streak since records began in 1992.

    ``We're sitting on some of the biggest gains in years, but it's hard to find good value now,'' said Rob Patterson, who manages $2 billion at Argo Investments Ltd. in Adelaide. ``The easy wins are behind us.''

    New Zealand's NZSX 50 Index gained 0.2 percent to 3452.79 at the 5 p.m. close in Wellington.

    Rio Tinto, the world's third-biggest mining company, fell 87 cents, or 1.5 percent, to A$59.14. BHP, the world's No.1 mining company, slid 23 cents, or 1 percent, to A$22.25.

    Copper declined 0.5 percent from a record in New York after a rally to a record triggered sales by metal producers locking in high prices.

    Rio Tinto was cut to ``neutral'' from ``outperform'' by analyst Peter O'Connor at Credit Suisse First Boston in Sydney.

    The S&P/ASX 200 Index's futures contract for December declined 0.4 percent to 4695. The broader All Ordinaries Index slid 0.5 percent to 4592.60.

    Quarterly Gain

    Resources stocks, such as BHP and Woodside Petroleum Ltd., have led gains over the quarter amid record prices for commodities such as copper and crude oil.

    Nine of the ten industry groups that make up the benchmark rose in the quarter as the Australian economy grew for a 14th year, and as companies reported earnings growth of 21.7 percent in the second half ended June 30, according to JPMorgan Case & Co.

    BHP has climbed 23 percent since June 30. It expects Chinese sales to rise to between 15 and 20 percent of its revenue in five years from 12.6 percent in the year ended June 30, led by soaring iron ore demand, Chief Executive Charles ``Chip'' Goodyear said in an interview yesterday. China is the single largest customer nation for the Melbourne-based mining company.

    China's economy grew 9.5 percent in the first six months, helping BHP and Rio Tinto post record profits as it bought more raw materials.

    Woodside Petroleum, Australia's second-biggest oil producer, gained 23 percent to a record in the quarter as oil prices rose 18 percent, peaking on Aug. 30.

    Telstra Corp., the nation's biggest telephone company, has dropped 20 percent since June 30 to its lowest in more than two years. Chief Executive Sol Trujillo said on Aug. 11 that increasing rivalry and regulation may erode earnings.

    The following shares also rose or fell. The stock symbols are in brackets after the company names.

    Australian stocks:

    Alinta Ltd. (ALN AU), Western Australia's biggest natural gas retailer, gained 30 cents, or 2.6 percent, to A$11.85. The company increased its forecast for full-year profit by as much as 8.7 percent because of higher retail sales and gas transmission volumes.

    Biota Holdings Ltd. (BTA AU), an Australian maker of drugs to treat influenza, surged 27 cents, or 25 percent, to A$1.34. The company said in a statement that the rally may ``reflect the company's improved prospects following recent stockpiling orders for Relenza.''

    The company on Sept. 12 cited unnamed media reports as saying the Dutch government was stockpiling anti-viral drugs, including Biota's Relenza flu drug, to prepare for the possibility of a flu epidemic.

    Citrofresh International Ltd. (CTF AU), an Australian maker of antibacterial supplies, slumped 6 cents, or 17 percent, to 29.5 cents after resuming trading. The stock fell after the stock exchange asked the company to clarify its statement on Sept. 27 that tests by Retroscreen Virology Laboratory showed its Citrofresh bioflavonid compound is effective against four major virus types including HIV and SARS. The shares soared 155 percent that day.

    Gippsland Ltd. (GIP AU), a minerals explorer, climbed 2 cents, or 17 percent, to 14 cents. The company reported ``encouraging'' results from recent exploration at its Wadi Allaqi gold project in Egypt.

    Gunns Ltd. (GNS AU) slipped 4 cents, or 1.2 percent, to A$3.30. The company may be forced to scrap a planned A$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) pulp mill in Australia's Tasmania state after Pacific National said it may end rail services, the Australian newspaper said.

    National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB AU), the nation's biggest lender, lost 55 cents, or 1.6 percent, to A$33.05. Vincent Ficarra and Gianni Gray, former traders on National Australia's currency options desk, were committed to stand trial for their role in unauthorized trades last year that cost the bank A$360 million in losses.

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