Australian, New Zealand Stocks: Atlas Iron, BHP, RiverCity, Paladin Energy

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 2.1 percent to 4,495.70 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 1.4 percent to 3,077.10 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.

Commodity shares: Oil and metal stocks rose as government reports showed Australia’s economy grew at the fastest pace in three years last quarter and Chinese manufacturing expanded.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s largest mining company, advanced 2.3 percent to A$37.91. Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world’s third-largest miner, increased 3.1 percent to A$72.24.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia’s second- largest oil and gas producer, rose 2.5 percent to A$42.90.

Atlas Iron Ltd. (AGO AU) gained 3.8 percent to A$2.17. The Australian iron-ore producer reported a 50 percent increase in reserves for its northern Pilbara projects.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG AU) surged 5.1 percent to A$4.92. Australia’s third-biggest producer of iron ore was rated new “buy” at Foster Stockbroking.

James Hardie Industries (JHX AU) shares dropped 1.5 percent to A$5.25 after losing a dispute with the Australian Tax Office over claims it owes A$459 million ($413 million) in back taxes, interest and penalties. The biggest seller of home siding in the U.S. rose as much as 3 percent earlier in the day.

Jetset Travelworld Ltd. (JET AU) jumped 17 percent to 80 Australian cents, its biggest gain since February 2009. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it will not oppose the proposed acquisition of Stella Travel Services Holdings Pty by Jetset.

Nufarm Ltd. (NUF AU) fell 6.8 percent to A$3.59. Australia’s largest supplier of farm chemicals said it expects net debt at July 31 will be approximately A$620 million, higher than the estimate provided on July 14.

QBE Insurance Group Ltd. (QBE AU) rose 1.7 percent to A$16.77. Australia’s biggest insurer by market value said its board hasn’t appointed an external recruiter to fill the chief executive officer role. Frank O’Halloran will remain the CEO for the foreseeable future, the company said.

Paladin Energy Ltd. (PDN AU) rose 2.4 percent to A$3.80. The Australian mining company said it’s targeting uranium shipments to China in 2011 after signing a preliminary accord with the nation’s second-biggest builder of nuclear power plants.

RiverCity Motorway Group (RCY AU) tumbled 21 percent to 1.9 Australian cents, a record low. The toll road operator had its stock rating cut to “sell” from “hold” by analysts at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

To contact the reporter for this story: Lisa Pham in Sydney at lpham14@bloomberg.net.

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