MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares follow Wall St higher in light trading; Meridian, F&P, A2 rise
By Paul McBeth
April 24 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares extended their gains on the back of improved sentiment in the US. Exporters including Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and A2 Milk benefited from a weaker kiwi dollar.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 66.9 points, or 0.7 percent, to 10,071.74. Within the index, 29 stocks gained, 15 fell, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $110.6 million.
The New Zealand market followed international cues as Wall Street set the tone. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed at records as better-than-expected earnings results and strong housing data allayed concerns that the US economy may be slowing. Stocks across Asia were mixed, with Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index up 0.9 percent in afternoon trading, Singapore's Straits Times index rising 0.2 percent while South Korea's Kospi Composite dropped 1.3 percent.
David Price, a broker at Forsyth Barr, said New Zealand's market was following those international leads, but volumes were very light in the holiday-shortened week with little news to drive direction.
"There hasn't been any negative news for a while, so the market is just going in the same direction where it left off previously," he said. "We're just a little boat bobbing in the sea at the moment."
Exporters continued to benefit from a weaker New Zealand dollar, which followed the Aussie lower as weaker-than-expected Australian inflation raised the prospect a rate cut across the Tasman.
A2 climbed 2.4 percent to $16.46, F&P Healthcare was up 2.3 percent at $15.99, and Sanford rose 0.7 percent to $6.92. Among exporters outside the benchmark index, AFT Pharmaceuticals rose 5.3 percent to $2, Serko increased 2.2 percent to $3.73 and Delegat Group advanced 1.9 percent to $10.60.
Synlait Milk, which supplies A2, led the NZX50 higher, up 2.7 percent at $10.70 on a volume of 66,000 shares.
Several of the electricity generator-retailers updated their production numbers ahead of the Easter shortened week, with Mercury NZ and Genesis Energy both downgrading their earnings outlooks due to dry weather in the central North Island and a shortage of gas supply. Mercury increased 0.4 percent to $3.865 on a volume of 1.1 million shares and Genesis rose 0.3 percent to $3.09.
Contact Energy fell 0.9 percent to $6.71 on a volume of 1.7 million shares, while Trustpower rose 1.3 percent to $6.95 and Meridian Energy increased 1.2 percent to $4.09.
Fletcher Building rose to a two-month high, up 1.4 percent at $5.26 while Ryman Healthcare increased 2.1 percent to $12.30.
Spark New Zealand traded on the heaviest volume of 3.1 million shares. It fell 2 percent to $3.67. Auckland International Airport increased 0.2 percent to $8.005 on a volume of 2.1 million shares.
Kathmandu Holdings posted the biggest decline, down 2.1 percent at $2.32 on a volume of 307,000 shares. Summerset Group fell 1.7 percent to $5.75.
Argosy Property dropped 1.5 percent to $1.29 after announcing a $64 million development in downtown Wellington. The 24-month project is expected to be completed in April 2021, with Statistics New Zealand signing a 15-year lease to occupy the entire office space.
Outside the benchmark index, Scott Technology rose 0.4 percent to $2.50 after announcing plans to buy French technology company Normaclass for an undisclosed sum.
Trade Me Group, which is set to de-list next week following a successful $6.45-a-share takeover, was unchanged at $6.43. It announced Norwegian online media executive Anders Skoe will take up the chief executive role in July under its new ownership.
Fisher Funds-managed investment vehicle Kingfish fell 0.7 percent to $1.41. Its manager said the vehicle had its best quarter in 13 years in March, as it quit a long-held position in Michael Hill International and increased its exposure to A2, F&P Healthcare and Mainfreight. Michael Hill was unchanged at 66 cents and Mainfreight edged down 0.03 percent to $35.79.