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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares shrugs off Wall St weakness

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares shrugs off Wall St weakness; defensive stocks gain, Genesis hits record

By Paul McBeth

March 26 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares shrugged off the weak leads from Wall Street overnight as the defensive qualities of companies offering stable dividends found favour with investors. Genesis Energy was among those beneficiaries, hitting a record today.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 55.51 points, or 0.6 percent, to a record 9,574.82. Within the index, 33 stocks gained, 11 fell, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $232 million, of which $88.1 million was in Trade Me Group.

Investors on Wall Street were spooked by the technical signal of a potential recession as the yield on longer-term bonds fell below shorter-dated debt. The world's low interest rate environment has been a boon for a number of New Zealand's listed utilities, which typically deliver stable dividends.

Electricity retailer-generators are among those that have been trading at all-time highs, with Genesis the latest to hit a record. It rose as high as $3.08 and ended the day at $3.07, up 2.3 percent. About 416,000 shares changed hands, compared to its 381,000 90-day average.

Lines company Vector rose 1.7 percent to $3.59, while real estate investor Argosy Property was up 1.6 percent at $1.26.

Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene, said defensive stocks remain in vogue in the low interest rate environment.

"The market very much likes defensive companies," he said.

Vista Group International led the market higher, up 4.3 percent at $4.90.Fletcher Building gained 3.2 percent to $4.80 and Ryman Healthcare was up 2.4 percent at $11.74.

Trade Me was the most traded stock, unchanged at $6.40 on a volume of 13.8 million shares. Shareholders will vote next week on whether to accept a $6.45 a share takeover bid.

Spark New Zealand rose 0.8 percent to $3.70 on a volume of 10.7 million, almost twice its 5.7 million average.

NZX rose 1 percent to $1 on a volume of 3.7 million shares, well north of its three-monthly average 152,000. The stock market operator got caveated support from the NZ Shareholders' Association. The retail investor lobby says the stock market operator is moving in the right direction and that it will give it another year to measure the changes that have been made.

Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Contact Energy increased 0.2 percent to $6.57, Meridian Energy decreased 1.1 percent to $3.995, and Auckland International Airport edged up 0.1 percent to $8.

Restaurant Brands New Zealand reported the biggest decline on the day, down 4.3 percent to $8.90 on a volume of 724,000. Finaccess Capital's already successful $9.45 a share partial takeover offer closes today.

Kathmandu Holdings declined 2.9 percent to $2.35 after reporting a 14 percent gain in first-half profit as improved margins, the Oboz acquisition, and a tax refund offset flat sales in New Zealand and Australia.

Outside the benchmark index, Abano Healthcare sank 14 percent to $4.94, the first time below $5 since September 2012. The healthcare investor issued a profit warning over trading conditions in Australia and said it has stopped buying new dental practices there.

QEX Logistics climbed 6.7 percent to $1.12 after signing new distribution deals with Open Country Dairy and Swisse Wellness.

Veritas Investments dropped 14 percent to 12 cents. Yesterday, it announced the $1.5 million acquisition an Auckland suburban bar.

Moa Group rose 5.3 percent to 40 cents after saying it generated positive earnings over the summer quarter and is on track to near break-even profitability for the six months ending March 31.


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