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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise led by Synlait, A2, Comvita

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise led by Synlait, A2, Comvita as US earnings stoke global sentiment

By Jonathan Underhill

April 19 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares gained as the US earnings season helped lift sentiment toward equities. Growth-linked companies including Synlait Milk, A2 Milk, Comvita led gains in the local market.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 3.54 points, or 0.04 percent, to 8,373.03. Within the index, 26 stocks fell, 13 rose and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $111 million.

Across the Asia Pacific region today, equity markets were generally stronger. Japan's Topix was up 0.2 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 0.4 percent in afternoon trading. Overnight, better earnings from US companies including Morgan Stanley lifted Wall Street.

"The US earnings season has got off to a good start," said Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets. "The focus is going to turn away from geopolitical concerns back to the earnings season, which highlights the underlying strength in the US economy."

Synlait climbed 3 percent to $9.88 and is up 38 percent for the year while A2 advanced 2.8 percent to $12.70, bringing its year-to-date gain to 58 percent. Comvita, another beneficiary of Chinese demand for New Zealand products, rose 2.3 percent to $6.75.

Scales Corp, the apple grower and exporter, rose 2.3 percent to $4.50. The company told BusinessDesk today that it is eyeing potential agribusiness acquisitions that would fit well with its export apple business.

"We think New Zealand agribusinesses are in a good space, they make good products, and sell them to Asia," chief executive Andy Borland told BusinessDesk. "We have over the years developed our skills around exporting and dealing with Asia, particularly China, and we are looking at businesses within New Zealand that would work with those sort of dynamics and be complementary to our apple business. We are really looking for those sort of New Zealand opportunities."

On the Unlisted platform today, monopoly kiwifruit exporter Zespri traded at a record $8.35, becoming Unlisted's first $1 billion company.

Heartland Bank rose 1.1 percent to $1.78 and Trade Me Group climbed 1.1 percent to $4.44. Chorus rose 0.9 percent to $4.

Defensive stocks were among the biggest decliners. Metlifecare fell 2.2 percent to $5.70 and Mercury NZ fell 1.7 percent to $3.15. Traders have speculated that Mercury could drop out of a benchmark MSCI index when weightings are reviewed. Fletcher Building, another contender, is halted for its capital raising.

Arvida Group dropped 1.7 percent to $1.18 and Ryman Healthcare fell 1.4 percent to $10.63.

(BusinessDesk)

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