* Mining, energy stocks lead gains on Aussie benchmark
* Australia’s March unemployment rate falls to 5.6%
* NZX50 index declines 0.9% after two days of gains
By Riya Sharma
April 15 (Reuters) – Australian shares reclaimed lost ground on Thursday to close at their highest level in nearly 14 months, as employment data cemented confidence that the economy recovery was in full swing.
The S&P/ASX 200 settled 0.5% higher at 7,058.6, its best finish since Feb. 21 last year. Mining and energy stocks led the rebound from a 0.5% drop in early trade.
Data showed unemployment dropped to a one-year low and the number of people in work surpassed its pre-pandemic peak, a big positive for consumer spending and confidence.
“The Australian economy is in a pretty good place at the moment and the employment data certainly got the market back into positive territory,” said Henry Jennings, a senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.
Mining stocks stood out, taking cues from Chinese coke futures that hit a near six-week high on Wednesday after some major coking plants sought to raise spot prices.
BHP jumped 2.9%, while Rio Tinto surged 3%. However, Whitehaven, Australia’s largest independent coal miner, plunged as much as 16.8% after it trimmed its annual managed coal sales forecast for the second time in two months.
Energy stocks closed 1.37% higher as oil prices held around one-month highs after a near 5% jump in the previous session.
Ampol climbed as much as 6.4% after the fuel supplier reported a first-quarter profit compared to a loss a year earlier.
Gold stocks tumbled 2.36% in their worst session in six weeks as bullion prices slipped overnight.
Newcrest, the country’s biggest gold miner, skidded as much as 2.4%.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 gave up all gains from the previous session to close 0.9% lower at 12,636.6. ($1 = 1.2965 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)