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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise as kiwi falls; Fletcher gains

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise as kiwi falls vs. AUD; Fletcher, Westpac advance

By Suze Metherell

Aug. 19 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, paced by companies with trans-Tasman exposure such as Fletcher Building, Westpac Banking Corp and Australian and New Zealand Banking Group, as the kiwi dropped versus the Australian dollar..

The NZX 50 Index rose 43.093 points, or 0.9 percent, to a two-week high of 5114.212. Within the index, 31 shares rose, seven fell and 12 were unchanged. Turnover was $124.8 million.

The New Zealand dollar fell to its lowest level since December last year against the Australian dollar, helping companies that have to bring revenue back across the Tasman and making local stocks look relatively cheap in Australian dollars. The kiwi fell as low as 90.28 Australian cents, the first time this year it has decisively fallen below 90.50 cents.

Fletcher Building, which is due to post its full-year results tomorrow, rose 0.4 percent to $9.09, having under-performed the benchmark index in the past 12 months. The construction and building products company said Ralph Norris, the former head of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, will take the chair of Fletcher Building in October, replacing the retiring Ralph Waters.

"One thing that has hurt them to a degree has been the strength of the New Zealand dollar in the translation of earnings from their foreign operations and also they tend to price their output against potential imports, so when the currency is very strong that does limit Fletcher Building's pricing power to a degree," said Matthew Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management.

Dual-listed stocks advanced. Xero, the cloud-based accounting software, led the benchmark index higher, up about 8 percent to $23, paring some of its 11 percent decline last week when investors questioned the company's US growth aspirations. Spark, formerly known as Telecom Corp, advanced 2 percent to $2.875. Westpac rose 2.9 percent to $38.30. ANZ Bank increased 2.3 percent to $36.31.

Retirement village operator Summerset Group climbed 2.5 percent to $2.88. Rival Ryman Healthcare rose 0.4 percent to $7.69 and Metlifecare gained 0.5 percent to $4.30.

"Summerset bounced from its very sharp recent sell off and Ryman and Metlifecare are also up slightly," Goodson said. "The market is perhaps also sniffing out a slowdown in housing sales and house price inflation, which valuations in the retirement village sector are critically dependent on."

A2 Milk Co was the day's worst performer on the benchmark index, dropping 1.5 percent to 64 cents ahead of tomorrow's GlobalDairyTrade auction, which has seen dairy prices fall in 11 of the past 12 sales and seen a 44 percent decline in the GDT price index since its April high.

Fonterra Shareholders' Fund, which give holders access to dividends from Fonterra Cooperative Group shares rose 0.5 percent to $6.19. Dairy prices are both an input and an output for Fonterra.

Outside the benchmark index, Pyne Gould Corp surged 23 percent to three-month high of 43 cents after the Guernsey-based asset management firm controlled by George Kerr said full-year profit was about $20 million, less than half its result in 2013, when it took one-time gains from the sale of assets.

Gentrack Group, the utilities and airports software firm, was unchanged at $2.15 after an order for 3.62 million, about 5 percent of shares on offer, was placed. The recently listed company fell below its $2.40 June initial public offer price after it issued a profit warning some five weeks after listing.


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