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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down, Air NZ and Contact drop

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down, Air NZ and Contact drop while Scales, Oceania Health rise

By Sophie Boot

Dec. 18 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares dropped, led lower by Air New Zealand and Contact Energy while Scales Corp and Oceania Healthcare gained.

The S&P/NZX50 Index fell 16.71 points, or 0.2 percent, to 8,344.15. Within the index, 26 stocks rose, 16 fell and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $197 million.

"It's a real mixed bag today, which is a bit surprising given Australia is up quite nicely," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "Volumes haven't been too bad, institutions are doing a bit of business on the market - they'll be wanting to get things tied away before the end of the year."

Markets across Asia traded higher this afternoon, with Australia's S&P/ASX 200 up 0.7 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rising 0.5 percent and Japan's Nikkei 400 gaining 1.4 percent at 5:10pm New Zealand time.

On the local index, the worst performer was Air New Zealand, which dropped 3.8 percent to $3.175, with Contact Energy down 3.6 percent to $5.57 and Mercury New Zealand falling 3.2 percent to $3.37.

Scales Corp was the best performer, up 3.7 percent to $4.77. The stock has gained this month since it forecast full-year earnings to be at the upper end of guidance on the performance of its horticulture division and new acquisitions, and said earnings will rise in 2018.

"It has been having a great run lately, it's up 20 percent in the last two weeks. The result and guidance all looked very good," Williamson said.

A2 Milk rose 2.7 percent to $7.97, Trade Me Group gained 1.9 percent to $4.92, and Stride Property advanced 1.7 percent to $1.78.

Outside the benchmark index, Oceania Healthcare rose 3.1 percent to 99 cents. It has agreed to buy a vacant lot in Auckland's St Heliers valued at $15.6 million for an undisclosed sum, which it plans to develop into a new retirement village.

The Auckland-based company entered into an unconditional deal to buy the 8,945 square metre site, which is expected to settle at the end of the week, it said in a statement. Oceania plans to develop an integrated retirement village and aged care facility on the site, which overlooks Auckland's harbour, and will start work on getting the appropriate consents immediately.


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