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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares follow Asian markets higher

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares follow Asian markets higher on renewed hopes for China-US resolution

By Rebecca Howard

Jan. 18 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares followed Asian markets higher on renewed hopes for a resolution to the US-China trade tensions. Trading was light with few local drivers.

The S&P/NZX 50 index rose 19.9 points, or 0.2 percent, to 9077.71. Within the index, 28 stocks rose, eight were unchanged and 14 fell. Turnover was $125.3 million.

Asian stocks lifted on renewed optimism after the Wall Street Journal reported U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports and suggested offering a tariff rollback during trade discussions scheduled for Jan. 30. The gains were tempered when a Treasury spokesman working with the trade team told CNBC that talks are "nowhere near completion."

However, Australia's S&P/ASX was up 0.5 percent while Japan's Topix was up 1.1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.9 percent.

Forsyth Barr broker Suzanne Kinnaird suggested any gains are likely to be fleeting "until we see some official news." Overall, she said New Zealand trading is still relatively quiet, with people only just now heading back to work after the summer break.

The most heavily traded stock was Spark New Zealand, which lost 0.3 percent to $4.04 with around 7.2 million shares trading versus a daily average of 3.4 million over the past 90 days.

Second was Trade Me Group, which slipped 0.2 to $6.33 with 4.7 million shares trading hands versus a daily average of 3.4 million over the past three months. In December the company agreed to a scheme implementation agreement under which UK-based Apax Partners will acquire all its shares at $6.45 apiece, subject to shareholder and court approval and no better offers emerging. A vote is expected in April.

Fletcher Building also saw more than 2 million stocks change hands, lifting 1.0 percent to $5.02.

Kiwi Property Group lifted 0.4 to $1.395 while Precinct Property rose 0.3 percent to $1.48. Kinnaird said high-yielding stocks like the property companies and energy companies remained in demand in a low interest rate environment.

Among energy companies, Contact Energy added 0.2 percent to $6.13 while Genesis Energy shed 2.2 percent to $2.65, likely on some profit-taking after a recent strong run.

The top mover was Gentrack Group, up 2.3 percent to $5.35, followed by Sky Network Television, which added 2.1 percent to $1.96 and Chorus, up 1.9 percent to $4.82.

In the other direction, New Zealand Refining shed 2.5 percent to $2.33 while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare lost 1.8 percent to $13.85. Kathmandu continued to slide after a weak Christmas period, shedding 1.6 percent to $2.41.

Tilt Renewables has left its full-year earnings guidance in place after December quarter production fell about 5 percent shy of long-term expectations. The stock was unchanged at $2.30.


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