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MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks rise; NZX gains, PPL falls

MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks rise; NZX paces gainers, Pumpkin Patch falls

By Jason Krupp

Dec. 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand stocks rose as a pre-Christmas rally on global equity markets helped support investor appetite for local shares. NZX Ltd. paced gainers on its own exchange, while Pumpkin Patch fell.

The NZX 50 Index rose 3.27 points, or 0.1%, to 3,322.37. Within the index, 21 stocks gained, eight declined and 21 were unchanged. Turnover was $64.5 million.

On Wall Street the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained for a fourth day, with the benchmark now trading at levels not seen since before the collapse of Lehman's Brothers and the global financial crisis. The positive sentiment flowed on into Asia, with regional markets all looking to close the year on a positive note.

"There is a sense emerging that bonds are not the place to be, so if you are looking for a place to put your money the stock market is where it's at," said Alan Moore, who helps manage $600 million in equities for Milford Asset management.

NZX, the securities market operator, rose 4% to $1.55. The company today fined broker McDouall Stuart Securities Ltd. a total of $83,000 and publicly censured for breaching stock exchange rules. The fine comes after McDouall Stuart moved to outsource its trading and settlement functions in protest over NZX Ltd.’s rising fees.

New Zealand Refining Co., which operates the country's only oil refinery, rose 2.4% to $4.35, PGG Wrightson Ltd., the rural services group, rose 2.1% to 49 cents, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp., the manufacturer of breathing masks and respirators, rose 1.9% to $3.15.

Tower Ltd., the general insurer controlled by Guinness Peat Group, rose 2% to $2 after government announced plans to open Accident Compensation Corp.’s monopoly on workplace insurance coverage to private providers in a move that could prove to be a $200 million windfall for insurers.

The changes won’t be implemented until after next year’s election, though the Cabinet wants to hear back from officials by the end of June.

Auckland International Airport Ltd., the country's busiest gateway, was unchanged at $2.17 after it signed up to Earthcheck, a global sustainable tourism certification scheme. The airport, which is currently rated at the benchmark bronze level, is looking to achieve silver certification.

Lyttelton Port Co., the South Island's busiest port, was unchanged at $2.26 after it said it expects to make net profit of between $5.5 million and $6.2 million in the six months ended December 31, compared to $3.7 million a year ago.

Pumpkin Patch Ltd., the children's clothing retailer, fell 3% to $1.62.

Data released today by Paymark, which handles 75% of the nation’s electronic transactions, showed that the pace of spending by New Zealand consumers slowed from a 4.6% pace in October and November. Compared to the same month last year though, Kiwis spent 3.8% more at retailers so far.

Contact Energy Ltd., the third biggest listed company on the exchange, fell 1.1% to $6.17. The company today announced its resource consents for its 250 Megawatt geothermal power station, Tauhara 2, have been granted, as signalled in a draft decision last month by the government-appointed board of inquiry.

The consents are the first granted under fast-track provisions of the amended Resource Management Act, which allows projects of national significance to be heard and consented within nine months.

Vector Ltd., the Auckland-based electricity lines company, fell 1.3% to $2.35, Rakon Ltd., the manufacturer of crystal oscillators used in cellphones and GPS units, fell0.9% to $1.16, and Abano Healthcare Group, the specialist health
clinic investor, fell 0.8% to $ $.81.

Telecom Corp., New Zealand's biggest telephone company, fell 0.5% to $2.22, after chief executive Paul Reynolds announced an efficiency drive will see the company cut staff, introduce new disciplines on both operational and capital expenditure, and abandon unprofitable markets.

(BusinessDesk)

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