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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares join global rally

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares join global rally amid earnings optimism, led by Summerset, Z

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 26 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares joined a global rally, buoyed by optimism over local earnings with retirement village operator Summerset Group gaining for a second day, in contrast to rival Metlifecare which disappointed investors.

The S&P/NZX 50 index rose 38.81 points, or 0.5 percent, to 8,340.53. Within the index, 18 stocks gained, 23 fell and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $124 million.

Stocks across Asia followed Wall Street higher as investors pared their expectations for the Federal Reserve to aggressively hike interest rates after the central bank released its monetary policy report, bolstering the appeal of equities. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.5 percent in afternoon trading, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.7 percent and Japan's Topix was up 0.9 percent.

New Zealand equities joined that rally while the local reporting season continued to show company earnings were largely growing at a modest pace, and quelling fears prices were getting stretched.

"It's just been a good, solid, uneventful reporting season," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners. "Fletcher Building aside, it's been pretty good across the board and shows the market in reasonably good heart."

Summerset led the market higher for a second session, rising 6.4 percent to $6.45 and adding to a 4.3 percent gain on Friday. The retirement village operator and developer beat earnings guidance when it reported on Friday, in contrast to rival Metlifecare, which today fell short of expectations. Metlifecare shares fell 4.6 percent to $5.96, the biggest decline on the day.

"Investors are choosing to flock to the one that's managing to deliver better growth when it comes to companies in that sector," Lister said. Ryman Healthcare increased 0.1 percent to $10.69 and Arvida Group slipped 0.8 percent to $1.23.

Z Energy gained 3.6 percent to $7.20, coming off a 12-month low from last week, while a2 Milk Co advanced 3.2 percent to $13.05 and Synlait Milk rose 2.5 percent to $6.92.

Among companies reporting tomorrow, Vital Healthcare Property Trust rose 1.7 percent to $2.09, Mercury Energy fell 1.5 percent to $3.22, and PGG Wrightson gained 3.4 percent to 61 cents.

Insurer CBL Corp is scheduled to report tomorrow, although it's unclear whether it will after the company appointed voluntary administrators. Last Friday, the High Court ordered interim liquidators be appointed to subsidiary CBL Insurance at the request of the Reserve Bank. The stock is suspended from trading while NZX Regulation determines whether it kept the market informed of material information, and traded at $3.17 before the suspension.

Chorus was unchanged at $3.75 after reporting a 29 percent decline in first-half profit as it lost customers in the growing battle for connections, although efforts to reduce costs had annual earnings guidance tracking near the top of the network operator's forecast range. Spark New Zealand, the network operator's biggest customer, fell 1.2 percent to $3.33.

Fletcher shares rose 0.5 percent to $6.53 after notices to the stock exchanged showed US fund manager BlackRock's stake in the country's biggest listed construction firm fell to 4.9 percent, meaning it's no longer classified a substantial shareholder.

Comvita fell 4.3 percent to $7.80, extending its loss following a 2.7 percent decline on Friday when the honey products maker reported a return to first-half profit, while warning bad weather was weighing on the 2018 season's honey crop.


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