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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall, led by Cavalier

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall, led by Cavalier; Kathmandu jumps

Nov. 16 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand stocks were mixed in Friday trading as international attention turned to the Middle East, where tit-for-tat rocket attacks between Israel and Gaza are raising fears of escalating conflict and driving a return to safe haven investments. Cavalier fell after cutting its guidance.

The NZX 50 Index fell 3.66 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3947.84. Within the index, 21 stocks fell, 18 rose and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $99.7 million.

Carpet maker Cavalier fell 11.9 percent to $1.55 after it cut its earnings guidance for the financial year to between $6 million and $10 million, instead of the previous range of $10 million to $12 million. The stock is down 35 percent on the year and leads decliners for the second time this week.

"They're good operators, but they're in very difficult circumstances at the moment," said Shane Solly at Mint Asset Management, who manages more than $50 million in assets for high net worth individuals.

Kathmandu was the star performer on the day, rising 6.9 percent to $1.85 after telling shareholders at the company's annual meeting that sales were up 19.5 percent to $66.9 million in the 15 weeks ended Nov. 11. Sales at stores open at least 12 months gained 14.3 percent, although first half earnings depend on performance at Christmas. The results indicated resilient Australian sales, despite a weakening economic picture across the Tasman in recent months.

Retailer Hallenstein, which also has Australian clothing stores, was up 2.4 percent to $5.12.

Solly said there was "nervousness going into the weekend" with markets watching developments in the Middle East, where the BBC reports that Israel has called up 30,000 reservists, fuelling speculation about a ground assault on Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave launched rockets that landed on Tel Aviv after Israel killed a key Hamas leader in an air attack earlier this week.

"Asia-Pacific markets have held up quite well. Australia is down 2 percent and we're flat on the day, which is a good effort considering," he said.

The other significant gainers today were Diligent Board Services, the governance software concern, which reported further strong growth in revenue in its third quarter earlier this week. Its shares were up 4.7 per cent to $4.26.

Cloud accounting software pioneer Xero, which listed on the ASX this week, shed some of earlier gains, falling 1.7 percent to $5.85. With $30.6 million of cash on hand, Xero reported a $7 million loss in the six months ended Sept. 30, up from a loss of $3.7 million a year earlier, although sales soared 119 percent to $17.3 million, closely followed by a 105 percent jump in operating expenses to $22.8 million.

Xero expects to double operating revenue in the full year, when it will post a second-half loss bigger than the first half loss but believes its high-growth strategy is the route to ultimate profitability.


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