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MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks fall as investors mull valuations

MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks fall as investors mull valuations; Telecom drops from month high

By Suze Metherell

July 15 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell as investors waited on full-year earnings to confirm high valuations of stocks. Telecom paced the decline, falling from a month high. Warehouse Group and Kathmandu Holdings fell after figures showed weaker retail sales in June.

The NZX 50 Index fell 12.469 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5115.396. Within the index, 29 stocks fell, 12 rose and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $90.2 million.

The benchmark index reached all-time records in the first-half of 2014 and has advanced 8 percent this year, leading some investors to question whether the market was fully priced and to look for validation in the high stock prices ahead of earnings next month.

"The earning season is right there - we've come through the confession season relatively unscathed but people will be looking for earnings continuing to strengthen so there is a bit of caution about that," said Shane Solly, portfolio manager and research analyst at Harbour Asset Management. "All equity markets have had a very good run and they're slightly above the historical averages but having said that the environment is gradually improving so investors need to patient with that."

Telecom fell 0.7 percent to $2.73 after touching a month high yesterday.

Paymark, which processes more than three quarters of the country's Eftpos purchases, recorded a "noticeable decline in spending" in June compared to a year earlier, as spending at department stores fell 4.0 percent, appliance retailers dropped 6.5 percent and clothing shops slipped 5.3 percent. Listed apparel retailers have already flagged weaker sales, as an unusually long summer and mild start to winter have crimped sales here and on Australia's east coast.

Warehouse Group dropped 1.3 percent to $3.07. Last month New Zealand's largest listed retailer cut its forecast full-year profit to $59 million to $62 million, down from $73.7 million last year saying the warmer weather had squeezed its margins. Kathmandu Holdings fell 0.6 percent to $3.30. The outdoor good retailer has also flagged weaker sales ahead of reporting full-year earnings in September. Trade Me Group, the online auction site, declined 1.1 percent to $3.51.

"We are seeing a cooling of consumer activity," Solly said. "In terms of the impact on the retailers' efforts, it's telling us the rate of growth is not as high as it was."

Outside the benchmark index, clothing chain Hallenstein Glasson fell 1.6 percent to $3.05. Childrenswear retailer Pumpkin Patch was unchanged at 38 cents, and has declined 57 percent this year.

Fletcher Building, the country's biggest listed company, fell 0.1 percent to $8.87.

Z Energy fell 0.5 percent to $3.82. The service station chain said margins on its petrol and diesel have increased in recent months as fuel retailers recoup costs of topping up payments to the Marsden Point oil refinery.

Dual-listed lender Westpac Banking Corp led the benchmark index lower, dropping 2.8 percent to $35.40.

Air New Zealand was the best NZX 50 performer, gaining 3.5 percent to $2.07 and snapping six days of decline.

Goodman Property Trust, New Zealand's largest listed property investor by market cap, fell 1.4 percent to $1.07. Property For Industry slipped 0.4 percent to $1.34. DNZ Property Fund dropped 0.3 percent to $1.635.

(BusinessDesk)

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