(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, April 17 Australian shares rallied 1
percent on Wednesday, led by financials as a rebound in metal
prices, higher iron ore production from BHP Billiton Ltd
and encouraging data in the United States helped boost
Financials were firmer, underpinning gains. Top lender the
Commonwealth Bank of Australia rallied 1.2 percent
while Westpac Banking Corp climbed 0.8 percent.
BHP Billiton was trading flat after the global miner said
its March quarter iron ore production was up 6 percent and it
anticipated the annualised production rate approaching 200
million tonnes for the June 2013 quarter.
Fortescue Metals Group added 0.5 percent but Rio
Tinto Ltd bucked the trend, falling 0.7 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 48.8 points to 4,999.6
by 0124 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3 percent on Tuesday.
"We're now going through an uncertain period for risk assets
really when the market is becoming a bit choppy and just range
bound as investors become a bit uncertain which way the market
wants to swing this time around," said Stan Shamu, market
strategist at IG Markets.
The market has risen five out of the previous 10 sessions.
"Without confidence, those cyclical plays can't continue to
move higher in unison."
The defensive sector underpinned the market. Consumer retail
staples Woolworths Ltd jumped 1.5 percent while
Wesfarmers soared 1.8 percent. Biotechnology companies
CSL Ltd added 1.7 percent and Cochlear climbed
Gas utility provider Origin Energy Ltd was trading
flat after the company successfully priced its medium term notes
after refinancing existing debt facilities.
Copper rose on Tuesday, helped by a weaker dollar and upbeat
housing data from the United States, while gold steadied as
buyers of bullion jumped at cheaper prices following Monday's
historic plunge to 30-year lows.
U.S. stocks jumped more than 1 percent on Tuesday, a day
after their worst decline since November, as gold prices
rebounded and earnings from Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson
improved the outlook for first-quarter results. Inflation data,
which reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve will keep
its stimulus plan in place, added to bullish sentiment.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.9
percent or 41.5 points to 4,469.4.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Leighton Holdings Ltd jumped 2 percent to
A$19.645 after it said its telecommunication unit Vision stream
had won a NZ$500 million contract for Ultra Fast Broadband.
* Pura Vida Energy soared 5.8 percent to A$0.55 as
the Australian energy company is among several firms which have
been awarded contracts from Egypt for oil and gas prospection
projects in the Mediterranean Sea off its northern coast.
* Ausdrill Ltd plumbed 6.6 percent to A$1.98 as the
Australian mining services firm warned on Wednesday its
full-year profit would fall around 17 percent, hit by a
worse-than-expected slowdown in mining activity, sending its
shares down by as much as a fifth.
* Starpharma Holdings Ltd climbed 2.3 percent to
A$1.10 after the company was granted three new patents by the
United States patent and trademark office.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)