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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as MSCI changes debated

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as MSCI changes debated, Mercury falls, Fletcher gains

By Jonathan Underhill

April 20 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell, taking a negative lead from Wall Street, as Fletcher Building's share offer weighed on demand. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which gets almost half its revenue in North America, led the decline, paced by Meridian Energy, Ryman Healthcare and Arvida Group, while Synlait Milk rose to a record.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index fell 49.81 points, or 0.6 percent, to 8,323.22. Within the index, 36 stocks fell, 12 rose and two were unchanged. Turnover was $148 million.

Across the Tasman, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 0.3 percent in afternoon trading, while on Wall Street overnight, the S&P 500 declined 0.6 percent as bond yields rose. Fletcher today said it had completed the institutional entitlement offer and shortfall bookbuild component of its capital raising plan, reaping $515 million of $750 million target. The retail entitlement offer opens on Monday. Institutions paid $6.15 in the bookbuild - above the deeply discounted offer itself at $4.80. Fletcher stock rose 2.5 percent to $6.15 when it resumed trading today.

"I would've thought it provides a signal that investors are feeling a bit more comfortable about what Fletcher has done," said Rickey Ward, NZ equity manager at JBWere. The sale had a damping effect on the market, though, as had (NZ) school holidays, he said.

F&P Healthcare, which gets almost 50 percent of its sales in North America, dropped 2.8 percent to $12.04, following Wall Street's lead. Meridian fell 1.9 percent to $2.815, Ryman fell 1.7 percent to $10.45 and Arvida declined 1.7 percent to $1.16. Summerset Group fell 1.6 percent to $6.88 and Metlifecare fell 1.2 percent to $5.63, adding to the list of stocks often held for their income that have weakened in recent days as US Treasury yields have risen.

But Ward said there hasn't been a broad change of sentiment about the New Zealand market.

Comvita gained 2.4 percent to $6.91, Synlait Milk gained 1.5 percent to a record close of $10.03 and A2 Milk rose 0.5 percent to $12.76. The stocks had been the top performers in the market in 2017 but had pared their gains more recently. Ward said A2 has benefitted from speculation its growing market value means it is assured of a place in a benchmark MSCI index. Mercury, which could fall out of the index, fell 0.6 percent to $3.13.

Ward said MSCI tried to capture 85 percent of the NZ market by value in the index and that had driven speculation about companies that could be shed. "For Fletcher, the capital raise helped," he said. "Unfortunately index weightings are becoming more important and changes get magnified in a small market like New Zealand."

AMP fell 0.9 percent to $4.60 on the NZX while Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.4 percent to $30.38 and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group gained declined 0.6 percent to $28.38.

The Financial Markets Authority said today it was keeping close tabs on Australia's Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry, with hearings this week uncovering misdeeds at AMP and prompting chief executive Craig Meller to fall on his sword.

Ward said he didn't expect bank stocks to be savaged too much because there is no indication they will lose their attractive attributes such as their dividends.


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