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Australian, N.Z. Equiries: BHP, Lynas, Westpac, Intrepid

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 1.2 percent to 4,247.60 at the close of trading in Sydney today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.5 percent to 3,470.81 in Wellington.

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

QBE Insurance Group Ltd. (QBE AU) gained 5.3 percent, the most since April 2011, to A$12.46. The Australian insurer is combining its global reinsurance operations under a single management team with a gross written premium of $1.5 billion, Actuarial Post reported today.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s biggest mining company, gained 1.3 percent to A$35.15 as iron-ore prices rose 0.5 percent to the highest level since Feb. 7. The steelmaking raw material provided 49 percent of the company’s operating income during the six months to Dec. 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Lynas Corp. (LYC AU) rose 3.9 percent to A$1.215 The rare-earth developer said its refinery in Malaysia is 96 percent complete and on track for first kiln production during the second quarter of this year.

Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC AU) rose 1.1 percent to A$20.74. Australia’s second-biggest lender gained as the outlook for the banking sector improves following the European Central Bank providing unlimited cash to the region’s financial system, helping the euro.

Dart Energy Ltd. (DTE AU) fell 2.6 percent to 37.5 Australian cents. The developer of coal-bed methane prospects in Asia, Australia and Europe dropped after a project in China was deemed commercially unviable.

Intrepid Mines Ltd. (IAU AU) fell 4.7 percent to 91 Australian cents. RBC Capital Markets analyst Geoff Breen downgraded the gold mining company to “sector perform” from “outperform” with a 12-month target price of 80 Australian cents a share.

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