March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index and New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 made their biggest first-quarter advances since 2006. The Australian gauge rose 0.1 percent to 4,335.20 at the close in Sydney. That capped a 6.9 percent increase over the first quarter, its best result for the period since a 7.7 percent rise in 2006.
In Wellington the NZX gained 0.4 percent to 3,509.55, a 7.2 percent rise that was the best since a 9.9 percent increase in the first quarter of 2006.
The consumer staples sub-index was the best performer on the Australian benchmark, climbing 1.1 percent. Woolworths Ltd. (WOW AU), Australia’s largest retailer, drove the increase in the gauge, rising 1.3 percent to A$25.98.
Mining shares: The materials sub-index was the second-best performing sector, rising 0.7 percent.
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s largest miner, climbed 1.1 percent, the most since March 19, to A$34.61. Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO AU) rose 1.6 percent to A$65.40.
Coalspur Mines Ltd. (CPL AU) had the biggest gain in Sydney, rising 6.5 percent to A$1.65. The company yesterday announced that it had increased capacity allocation at a coal port on Canada’s west coast.
Mirabela Nickel Ltd. (MBN AU), which is developing a mining project in Brazil, continued its seven-day losing streak and was the worst performer in Sydney, down 8.1 percent at 56 Australian cents and capping a 72 percent fall over the past 12 months.
Industrial stocks were the third-best performers, with the sub-index up 0.5 percent.
Leighton Holdings Ltd. (LEI AU), Australia’s biggest builder, fell for a second day running after reporting that full-year earnings would be below previous forecasts because of cost overruns on two projects. The stock sank 3.8 percent to A$21.32 at the close.
Macmahon Holdings Ltd. (MAH AU), which competes with Leighton in the mining construction sector, was the second-best performer, rising 6.2 percent to 86 Australian cents after winning a contract to build part of a uranium mine in northern Australia.
Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN AU), the country’s leading carrier, fell 1.7 percent to A$1.785 after announcing capacity growth will slow and raising fuel surcharges.
Aurora Oil & Gas Ltd. (AUT AU) fell 2.6 percent to A$3.78 after Credit Suisse Group AG cut its rating on the stock to “neutral.”
AWE Ltd. (AWE AU) rose 4.5 percent to A$1.995 after announcing it had received A$80 million in cash for selling its stake in a gas project.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Fickling in Sydney at email@example.com