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Australian, N.Z. Stocks: AMP, Austar, Qantas, Santos, Vector

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Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.2 percent to 4,938.40 at the 4:10 p.m. close in Sydney.

The following are among the most active shares in the market so far today. Stock symbols are in parentheses.

Bank stocks: Australia’s four biggest banks were little changed in Sydney trading even as Moody’s Investors Service late yesterday warned that the lenders and their New Zealand units may have their ratings cut. The agency cited concern relating to the banks’ access to overseas markets for funding, which will be “significantly restrained.”

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ AU) fell 0.2 percent to A$25.65, National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB AU) increased 0.3 percent to A$26.42, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA AU) rose 0.3 percent to $53.99 and Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC AU) slid 0.2 percent to A$24.29.

All four banks currently hold Moody’s second-highest Aa1 rating and are likely to remain in the Aa category after the review.

Bank of Queensland Ltd. (BOQ AU) rallied 2.4 percent to A$10.30 after Credit Suisse Group AG raised its recommendation for the shares to “outperform” from “neutral,” saying it sees the Australian regional lender as a “value story.”

AMP Ltd. (AMP AU) rose 0.9 percent to A$5.50. Australia’s second-largest asset manager reported second-half profit of A$350 million ($351.5 million), down 7 percent as earnings at its wealth management unit declined. AMP was expected to report earnings of A$349 million, according to the average of four analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg News.

Austar United Communications Ltd. (AUN AU) rallied 3.7 percent to 98.5 Australian cents after the pay-television company sold A$120 million worth of spectrum to Australia’s NBN Co. for rural and regional areas.

Australand Property Group (ALZ AU) jumped 2 percent to A$3.12 after UBS AG raised its recommendation for the land and housing development company to “neutral” from “sell” as analysts raised their earnings estimates on increased investment income and higher residential volumes.

Mincor Resources NL (MCR AU) surged 4.7 percent to A$1.77 after the Australian metal supplier said it intersected high-grade copper in early drilling at Tottenham, New South Wales.

Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN AU) jumped 5.4 percent to A$2.52, the steepest advance since June 2009. Australia’s biggest airline posted net profit that more than quadrupled in the first half to A$241 million. Sales climbed 9.9 percent, boosted by a 9.1 percent increase in group passenger numbers. The demand pickup helped the carrier to withstand a 23-day grounding of its A380 fleet and A$55 million in costs following a mid-air engine blowout.

Santos Ltd. (STO AU) gained 3.2 percent to A$14.24 after the oil and gas producer said new projects starting output this year may increase production by 20 percent. The company today reported a 15 percent increase in full-year net income to A$500 million on higher commodity prices. Analysts had forecast annual profit of A$535 million.

The Reject Shop Ltd. (TRS AU) dropped 2.3 percent to A$12.79 after Goldman Sachs & Partners Australia Pty. lowered its recommendation on the shares to “hold” from “buy.” The retailer this week reported a 16 percent drop in first-half profit to A$15.9 million.

New Zealand:

Vector Ltd. (VCT NZ) increased 1.6 percent to NZ$2.54 in Wellington trading. The company has been selected by the New Zealand government for prioritized talks to deliver an ultra-fast broadband service in Auckland, the nation’s most populous city, putting it in competition with Telecom Corp. (TEL NZ). Telecom’s shares were unchanged at NZ$2.23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Jones in Sydney at sjones35@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net.

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