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BLBG: ADP Says U.S. Companies Decreased Payrolls by 8,000 (Update1)
By Shani Raja

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Australian stocks fell, led by mining companies, after commodities prices dropped as reports showing a weakening U.S. economy heightened concern a $700 billion bank bailout won\'t be enough to reverse the global economic slowdown.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world\'s largest mining company, slipped to its lowest in almost 1 1/2 years as the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials headed towards its biggest weekly drop in more than 50 years.

Babcock & Brown Ltd., a manager of infrastructure assets, tumbled 9 percent, while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. dropped 2.7 percent as three-month bank lending rates climbed to the highest since January.

``The U.S. economy faces severe economic hardships over the next few years,\'\' said Hans Kunnen, head of investment market research in Sydney at Colonial First State Global Management, which manages about $128 billion. ``What the package does is save the system, it doesn\'t fix the system.\'\'

The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 2.3 percent to 4,653.40 at 2:25 p.m. in Sydney, taking its decline this year to 27 percent. Materials stocks on the benchmark dived 4.7 percent, the biggest decline among the 10 industry groups.

BHP lost A$1.51, or 4.8 percent to A$30.16. Rio Tinto Group, the world\'s third biggest mining company, dropped A$4.53, or 5 percent, to A$86.72.

Macarthur Coal Ltd., the world\'s biggest exporter of pulverized coal, lost 80 cents, or 8.1 percent, to A$9.10, the lowest since January, while Gloucester Coal Ltd. declined 87 cents, or 12 percent to A$6.39.

U.S. Concerns

Incitec Pivot Ltd., the world\'s second-largest explosives maker that\'s also the biggest fertilizer producer in Australia, dropped to its lowest since Nov. 21, 2007, falling 38 cents, or 8.2 percent, to A$4.27.

Babcock fell 18 cents, or 9 percent, to A$1.82. ANZ lost 52 cents, or 2.7 percent, to A$18.46.

U.S. initial jobless claims jumped to 497,000 in the week ended Sept. 27 from the previous week, the Labor Department yesterday said. Orders to U.S. factories dropped 4 percent in August, the biggest slump in almost two years, a separate report from the Commerce Department showed.

The following companies\' shares rose or fell on the Australian stock exchange.

Platinum producers: Aquarius Platinum Ltd. (AQP AU), a producer of the metal in South Africa and Zimbabwe, plunged 68 cents, or 12 percent, to A$5.15, the lowest in more than two years. Platinum Australia Ltd. (PLA AU), owner of platinum mines in South Africa and Australia, fell 14 cents, or 8.7 percent, to A$1.42, the lowest since April 2007.

Platinum fell below $1,000 an ounce to the lowest since January 2006 and palladium plunged on signs of waning demand for the metals used in car parts as U.S. auto sales tumbled 27 percent in September.

Equinox Minerals Ltd. (EQN AU), the developer of Africa\'s largest copper mine, fell 23 cents, or 7.9 percent, to A$2.67, the lowest since May 2, 2007. The company said it signed an $80 million loan facility to meet its ``working capital requirements\'\' after delays to the start of the Lumwana copper project.

Gunns Ltd. (GNS AU), which is building a wood pulp mill in Australia\'s Tasmania state, surged 8 cents, or 6.9 percent, to A$1.31, the benchmark\'s biggest gainer. The company said its recent institutional offer allowed it to repay its extended working capital facility and a part of its debt facilities.

3D Oil Ltd. (TDO AU), an Australian oil and gas explorer, soared 1 cent, or 13 percent, to 13 cents. Director Peter Wilcox acquired 300,000 shares in the company worth A$37,589, according to a statement filed to the Australian stock exchange.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shani Raja in Sydney at sraja4@bloomberg.net