Australian, N.Z. Stocks: Asciano, BHP, News, Sigma, Woodside

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 1.7 percent to 4,071.70 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.3 percent to 3,272.50 at the 5 p.m. close in Wellington after the nation’s central bank left its benchmark interest rates unchanged and signaled no urgency to raise borrowing costs until the global recovery strengthens.

The following were among the most active shares in the market today. Stock symbols are in parentheses after company names.

Banks & commodity stocks: Oil, mining and financial companies rose after French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Greece will stay in the euro area. That boosted the outlook for global growth amid fears of a global banking crisis arising from Europe’s sovereign debt problems.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s No. 1 mining company, rose 2 percent to A$37.63. Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world’s second-largest mining company by sales, climbed 1.5 percent to A$69.38.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, gained 3 percent to A$33.21. Santos Ltd. (STO AU), Australia’s third-largest oil and gas producer, added 2.5 percent to A$11.21.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA AU), the nation’s largest lender by market value, rose 1.7 percent to A$44.76. National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB AU), the country’s biggest lender to companies, gained 2.4 percent to A$22.33.

Gold producers: New York-traded gold futures for December delivery dropped as much as 1.1 percent today.

Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia’s biggest gold producer, slipped 1.7 percent to A$38.11. Rival St. Barbara Ltd. (SBM AU) dropped 2.2 percent to A$2.21.

Asciano Group (AIO AU) surged 5.6 percent to A$1.515 after the port cargo handler said it expects to generate strong cashflow from 2013 and has ‘ambitious’ plans for all three of its units.

News Corp. (NWS AU) rose 2.3 percent to A$15.91. The media company has more films and television shows available to sell to Netflix Inc., an online subscription service, President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said yesterday. There is room to expand News Corp.’s online presence without harming the market for traditional cable television, Carey said at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference in Beverly Hills, California.

Sigma Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (SIP AU) surged 10 percent to 64 Australian cents after the drugmaker was raised to “buy” from “hold” at Deutsche Bank AG.

Sundance Resources Ltd. (SDL AU) jumped 13 percent to 43 Australian cents. China’s government may tap Wuhan Iron & Steel Co. to buy half of Sundance’s Mbalam project in Africa if Hanlong Mining Investment Pty drops its bid for the company, the Australian Financial Review reported in its Street Talk column, citing “rumors” and “certain sources.”