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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares dip as global trade jitters weigh

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares dip as global trade jitters weigh on A2, F&P

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 15 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell as pessimism over trade negotiations between the US and China cast a pall across Asia. Exporters including A2 Milk and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare led the market lower.

The S&P/NZX 50 index decreased 39.27 points, or 0.4 percent, to 9,245.65. Within the index, 17 stocks fell, 16 rose, and 17 were unchanged. Turnover was $118.6 million, with just five companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares.

Stocks across Asia were weaker, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng down 1.6 percent in afternoon trading, Korea's Kospi 200 down 1.9 percent, and Singapore's Straits Times index down 0.4 percent. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in Beijing for high-level trade talks, but have reportedly not made any inroads into ending the stalemate.

A2 Milk led the market lower, down 3.8 percent at $12.79. About 2.1 million shares changed hands, almost twice its 90-day average of 1.1 million. F&P Healthcare fell 1.4 percent to $13.51 on slightly smaller volume than usual at 412,000.

"Stocks are falling back on the trade pessimism, which is coming to dominate," said Peter McIntyre, an investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "It's been pretty subdued today."

New Zealand's own relationship with China - its biggest trading partner - came under scrutiny today after China's Global Times reported of dwindling tourist appetite to travel to New Zealand. Air New Zealand fell 1.7 percent to $2.665 on a bigger volume than normal of 1.7 million shares. Auckland International Airport slipped 0.1 percent to $7.50 on less than half its average volume.

Sanford was unchanged at $6.89 on typically light volumes, despite the fishing group saying it was facing some issues getting salmon through Chinese customs. NZ King Salmon, which isn't in the top 50 index, rose 0.9 percent to $2.20.

The Ministry for Primary Industries issued a statement saying there were no issues with primary products clearing Chinese customs. Fruit exporters Scales Group was unchanged at $4.60, as was T&G Global at $2.81.

NZX was unchanged at $1.02, with 862,000 shares changing hands, compared to its 142,000 average. The stock market operator reported a 22 percent decline in annual profit, largely due to the cost of restructuring its business to focus on the capital markets.

McIntyre said the result was at the lower end of guidance and brokers' expectations.

Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock, with 4.6 million shares changing hands, more than its 3.7 million average. It fell 0.4 percent to $4.065. Fletcher Building decreased 0.2 percent to $5.22 on a volume of 3 million shares. Meridian Energy was unchanged at $3.75 on a volume of 1.1 million.

Contact Energy posted the biggest gain on the day, up 1.8 percent at $6.40 on a smaller-than-average volume of 583,000. Ryman Healthcare rose 1.5 percent to $11.23 on a volume of 387,000.

Of companies reporting on Monday, Property For Industry was unchanged at $1.93, Port of Tauranga rose 0.2 percent to $5.23, and Steel & Tube gained 2.5 percent to $1.22.

Outside the benchmark index, Wellington Drive Technologies climbed 9.1 percent, or 2 cents, to 24 cents after reporting record fourth-quarter sales and saying it will deliver an operating profit for the year.

NZAX-listed BurgerFuel Worldwide was unchanged at 55 cents after extending KPMG's mandate to find it a buyer, merger partner, or joint venture after a strategic review found no need for it to keep its listing.

(BusinessDesk)

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