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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down led by Spark; Xero

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down led by Spark; Xero, ERoad, Tegel rise

By Sophie Boot

July 5 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares dropped with North Korean tensions spooking investors as the US Independence Day holiday left markets lacking direction. Spark New Zealand and A2 Milk Co fell while Xero and ERoad gained.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 24.97 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,620.64. Within the index, 21 stocks fell, 17 rose and 12 were unchanged. Turnover was $106.9 million.

Stocks across Asia were mixed as the US holiday left investors somewhat rudderless, and easy to unsettle by North Korea’s claim of the country’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test that brings the United States within its reach. Investors will have more to ponder later in the week with Group of 20 meeting in Germany, where US President Donald Trump is slated to meet with both his Russian and Chinese counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

"The market has been tentative with the US market closed for Independence Day, we will get a better feel tomorrow when it opens back up," said Peter McIntyre, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "There has been a bit of geopolitical tension overnight too, North Korea has made investors a bit nervous."

Spark led the index lower, dropping 1.9 percent to $3.84, which McIntyre said was giving up some gains made over the previous two sessions. A2 Milk fell 1.8 percent to $3.87 and Arvida Group declined 1.5 percent to $1.30 ahead of its annual meeting on Friday.

Xero was the best performer, gaining 1.7 percent to $25.62, while Restaurant Brands New Zealand rose 1.3 percent to $6.25 and Mainfreight gained 1 percent to $23.60.

Outside the benchmark index, ERoad gained 9.2 percent to $1.79. The shares rose to their highest level since May after posting its fastest quarterly sales growth in the US, where the logistics and fleet management company's high hopes for rapid expansion have been confounded by slow uptake of the new federal compliance regime for electronic logging devices.

ERoad's chief financial officer said the sales figure represented its "single biggest growth in units for a quarter" since the company was founded in 2000. The news was positive, but the gains came on light volume, McIntyre said. Separately, its chief technology officer Bruce Wilson quit effective immediately.

Tegel Group also strengthened, up 0.8 percent to $1.33, and has gained 18 percent over the past week as a shrinking glut of chicken has brought some pricing power come back into the chicken market, McIntyre said.


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