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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares at record; trading quiet

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares at record; trading quiet as investors digest re-weightings

By Paul McBeth

March 18 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose to a record in quiet trading as investors digested the latest round of index re-weightings and wait on upcoming earnings. Kathmandu Holdings led the market higher.

The S&P/NZX 50 index rose 41.85 points, or 0.4 percent, to 9,515.12. Within the index, 25 stocks gained, 20 fell and five were unchanged. Turnover was $96 million, with just two companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares. Friday's turnover was $407 million.

"It's just drifted up following where it's been going for the last few days with no real driver," said David Price, a broker at Forsyth Barr.

Local trading was muted with little corporate news today and as investors let last Friday's re-weightings to the S&P/NZX and FSTE Russell indices bed in. Some 104 million shares were traded on Friday, compared with 18.3 million today and the 28.9 million daily average for the past three months

Kathmandu led the market higher, up 5.6 percent at $2.46 on 86,000 shares, about half its average volume. The retailer will report first-half earnings next Tuesday, having warned of sluggish sales in the Christmas and New Year period. Cornerstone shareholder Briscoe Group increased 0.3 percent to $3.35. Managing director Rod Duke last week reiterated his interest in taking control of Kathmandu.

Warehouse Group, which dropped out of the NZX50, will report first-half earnings tomorrow. Price said investors will be watching for further signs that the retailer's new strategy is improving margins. The shares fell 2.4 percent to $2.08.

Dual-listed Michael Hill International rose 2.7 percent to 77 cents on a volume of 1.1 million, about three times the 90-day average.

Listed milk processors Synlait Milk and Fonterra Cooperative Group are reporting first-half earnings on Wednesday. Craigs Investment Partners analyst Adrian Allbon expects the results will show vastly different outcomes, with Synlait likely to report earnings growth and Fonterra contending with an over-geared balance sheet.

Synlait shares increased 0.1 percent to $11.20 on a volume of 242,000 shares, twice its three-monthly average. Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units rose 1.4 percent to $4.35 on a volume of 238,000, below its 393,000 average.

A2 Milk, which counts both firms as suppliers, fell 0.8 percent to $13.82 with 457,000 shares changing hand, less than half the usual volume.

Glass products maker Metro Performance Glass, which isn't on the benchmark index, dropped 7.7 percent to 48 cents after downgrading its earnings guidance again, citing a poor performance from its Australian division.

A slowing housing market across the Tasman has weighed on Fletcher Building in recent months after the country's biggest listed construction company cited tougher Australian conditions as a headwind. It rose 3.4 percent to $4.83 on a smaller than usual volume of 499,000.

Contact Energy was the most traded stock today on a volume of 2.4 million, more than its 90-day average of 1.5 million. It rose 1.1 percent to $6.47. Auckland International Airport gained 0.6 percent to a record close of $7.99 on a volume of 2 million. Spark New Zealand increased 0.6 percent to $3.645 on a volume of 1.7 million, less than a third of its three-monthly average.

Summerset Group posted the biggest decline in the benchmark index, down 2.8 percent at $6.71 on a smaller volume than usual of 182,000.

Chorus decreased 0.5 percent, or 3 cents, to $5.81 after shedding rights to a 9.5 cent dividend.

(BusinessDesk)

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