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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares edge lower on US-China trade fears

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares edge lower as US-China trade fears weigh

By Paul McBeth

May 10 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares dipped from a record as the uncertain outcome of the US-China trade talks weighed on investor sentiment.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index decreased 4.98 points, or 0.05 percent, to 10,099.37. Within the index, 22 stocks fell, 20 rose, and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $108.7 million.

Stocks across Asia were mixed as investors waited as US and Chinese trade negotiations enter their final phase, with China vowing to retaliate to the US lifting tariffs on US$200 billion of goods to 25 percent. China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 1.4 percent in afternoon trading, Japan's Topix was down 0.1 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 percent.

"It's relatively calm given it could be quite a significant 24 hours ahead," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners. "The next move depends on what comes out of the US trade talks over the next day or so."

Lister said he would expect equity markets to be sold off if a deal can't be reached, with New Zealand holding up better than most as low interest rates and a weaker currency helping offset slowing growth.

Synlait Milk led the market lower, down 2.9 percent at $10.20 on a volume of 152,000 shares, more than its 90-day average of 110,000. The milk processor has been caught out by a Court of Appeal judgment that effectively means its new Pokeno factory was built in breach of covenants affecting Synlait's land. The company said it's confident it can resolve the issue.

Lister said the decision was negative for Synlait, but noted that the shares have had a strong run over the last couple of years. Since the start of 2017, the stock is up 229 percent. A2 Milk, which counts Synlait as a supplier, fell 0.6 percent to $15.97 on a volume of 571,000 shares.

Infratil shares were halted at $4.60 after its manager Morrison & Co confirmed it was in talks with another firm to potentially buy Vodafone New Zealand. The trading halt will lift when an announcement is made or on Tuesday morning. Vodafone is the country's biggest mobile carrier and had been slated for a potential initial public offering in 2020 under new chief executive Jason Paris.

Stock market operator NZX fell 1.9 percent to $1.60 on 1.2 million shares, more than five times its 232,000 average.

Spark New Zealand, the country's biggest telco, fell 0.7 percent to $3.62 on a volume of 2.1 million shares, less than half its 5.7 million average.

Vital Healthcare Property Trust posted the biggest gain on the day, up 7.6 percent at $2.28, the highest since August. The volume of 748,000 units was more than twice its 280,000 three-month average.

The property trust's manager today said Vital won't participate in A$1.26 billion deal to buy freehold hospitals in Australia, and that its chief executive David Carr has resigned.

Lister said investors welcomed the news because it removed the need for Vital to raise more capital.

Exporters benefited as the trade uncertainty helped keep the kiwi dollar below 66 US cents. Vista Group International rose 3.6 percent to a record $5.70 on a volume of just 66,000 shares, less than a quarter of its usual volume. Pushpay Holdings jumped 5.8 percent to $3.99 on a volume of 1.1 million shares, more than twice its 90-day average of 461,000.

Tourism Holdings rose 2.7 percent to $4.15 and Auckland International Airport increased 2.1 percent to a record $8.42, valuing it at $9.97 billion.

SkyCity Entertainment Group was the most traded stock on a volume of 5 million shares, compared to its 640,000 average. The casino operator increased 0.3 percent to $3.91.

Property stocks rounded out the remaining companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares. Kiwi Property Group was unchanged at $1.535, Precinct Properties New Zealand rose 0.6 percent to $1.59 and Goodman Property Trust was up 0.3 percent at $1.735.

Outside the benchmark index, Warehouse rose 2.4 percent to $2.12 after reporting a 1.9 percent increase in third-quarter sales.

Government data showed retail spending on credit and debit cards was up in April, helped in part by the timing of the Easter holiday. Retailers were mixed, with Briscoe Group up 0.3 percent at $3.30, Hallenstein Glass up 0.6 percent at $4.88, and Kathmandu Holdings down 0.9 percent to $2.18.

Higher petrol prices were also cited for the increased spending. Transport fuels operator Z Energy fell 0.5 percent to $6.18 on a volume of 986,000 shares, just shy of its 1.2 million average.

IkeGPS jumped 16 percent to 58 cents after signing up two major US telecommunications customers to its IKE Analyze service.

Seeka dropped 7.6 percent after the kiwifruit grower cut earnings guidance as unseasonable weather on both sides of the Tasman reduced fruit size and crop volumes.

Heartland Bank's 2024 bonds paying 3.55 percent annual interest were the most traded debt security, with 320,000 notes changing hands. The yield on the bonds ended the day at 3.44 percent, up 1 basis point. Shares of the parent Heartland Group fell 0.6 percent to $1.58.


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