(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, April 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares rallied 1 percent on Wednesday, led by financials as a rebound in metal prices, higher iron ore production from BHP Billiton Ltd and encouraging data in the United States helped boost investor sentiment.
BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL - news) was trading flat after the global miner said its March quarter iron ore production was up 6 percent and it anticipated the annualised production rate approaching 200 million tonnes for the June 2013 quarter.
Fortescue Metals Group added 0.5 percent but Rio Tinto Ltd bucked the trend, falling 0.7 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 48.8 points to 4,999.6 by 0124 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3 percent on Tuesday.
"We're now going through an uncertain period for risk assets really when the market is becoming a bit choppy and just range bound as investors become a bit uncertain which way the market wants to swing this time around," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG Markets.
The market has risen five out of the previous 10 sessions.
"Without confidence, those cyclical plays can't continue to move higher in unison."
The defensive sector underpinned the market. Consumer retail staples Woolworths Ltd jumped 1.5 percent while Wesfarmers (Other OTC: WFAFF - news) soared 1.8 percent. Biotechnology companies CSL Ltd (Other OTC: CMXHF - news) added 1.7 percent and Cochlear (Other OTC: CHEOF - news) climbed 1.2 percent.
Gas utility provider Origin Energy Ltd was trading flat after the company successfully priced its medium term notes after refinancing existing debt facilities.
Copper rose on Tuesday, helped by a weaker dollar and upbeat housing data from the United States, while gold steadied as buyers of bullion jumped at cheaper prices following Monday's historic plunge to 30-year lows.
U.S. stocks jumped more than 1 percent on Tuesday, a day after their worst decline since November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) , as gold prices rebounded and earnings from Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson improved the outlook for first-quarter results. Inflation data, which reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve will keep its stimulus plan in place, added to bullish sentiment.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.9 percent or 41.5 points to 4,469.4.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Leighton Holdings Ltd jumped 2 percent to A$19.645 after it said its telecommunication unit Vision stream had won a NZ$500 million contract for Ultra Fast Broadband.
* Pura Vida Energy soared 5.8 percent to A$0.55 as the Australian energy company is among several firms which have been awarded contracts from Egypt for oil and gas prospection projects in the Mediterranean Sea off its northern coast.
* Ausdrill Ltd (Other OTC: AUSDF - news) plumbed 6.6 percent to A$1.98 as the Australian mining services firm warned on Wednesday its full-year profit would fall around 17 percent, hit by a worse-than-expected slowdown in mining activity, sending its shares down by as much as a fifth.
* Starpharma Holdings Ltd climbed 2.3 percent to A$1.10 after the company was granted three new patents by the United States patent and trademark office.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)