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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as US, China in focus

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as US, China in focus; GPG, WBC, NZOG drop

May 23 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand shares fell as the prospect of a winding down of US stimulus and weak Chinese manufacturing weighed on equity markets across Asia. Guinness Peat Group dropped after signalling a delay in its transformation strategy. Westpac Banking Corp led lenders and insurers lower.

The NZX 50 Index fell 21.122 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4589.059. Within the index, 37 stocks fell, eight rose and five were unchanged. Turnover was $189 million.

Stocks were weaker across Asia after HSBC’s purchasing managers’ index showed a preliminary reading of 49.6 in May, the first contraction in seven months. Meantime, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress yesterday that the Fed may reduce stimulus if the US economy shows more strength.

Winding back monetary policy in the US “changes the interest rate and exchange rate outlook for much of the world,” said Angus Gluskie of White Funds Management in Sydney. “That has an impact on stocks.”

Westpac fell 4.1 percent to $35.87 on the NZX, while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group declined about 4 percent to $33.99 and AMP fell 3 percent to $6.42 as the Chinese data added to the weight on Australian equities. Among other Australian firms that with shares on the NZX, Telstra fell 2.4 percent to $6. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was down about 1.8 percent.

Guinness Peat fell 3.9 percent to 50 cents after Chairman Rob Campbell told shareholders in Auckland the investment firm will have to keep certain corporate functions at GPG for longer than it intended as it figures out what level of funding it will have to provide for the Coats pension schemes.

Comvita, which produces health products from manuka honey and olive leaves, rose 2.7 percent to $3.85 after posting a 10 percent decline in full-year profit, beating its own guidance as it coped with a shortage of honey and higher costs.

Xero, the cloud-based accounting firm, rose 0.3 percent to $13.84 after posting an annual loss of $14.4 million, in line with guidance, while lifting operating revenue rose 102 percent to $39 million.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was the biggest bright spot, rising 5.6 percent to $3.20 after the maker of breathing masks and respirators said it expects to beat analyst estimates for 2014 profit after surpassing its own guidance for 2013.

Ryman Healthcare rose 1.1 percent to a new record close of $6.65.

Rakon tumbled 16 percent to 21 cents after posting a full-year loss of $32.8 million and writing down its Chinese and New Zealand units.

DNZ Property Fund fell 0.6 percent to $1.70 after it reported a 14 percent decline in annual distributable earnings yesterday, and completed its $60 million placement to institutional investors at a 1.8 percent discount.

New Zealand Oil & Gas fell 2.3 percent to 85 cents and Auckland International Airport declined 2.1 percent to $3.03.

Telecom declined 1 percent to $2.38 and Contact Energy fell 1.5 percent to $5.20.

(BusinessDesk)

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