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MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks rise on interest rate outlook

MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks rise on interest rate outlook; dairy shares gain

By Gavin Evans

July 11 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand stocks rose, joining a rally across Asia, as renewed prospects for deeper rate cuts in the US made equity investments more appealing. Dairy stocks also firmed.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 37.18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 10,687.32. Within the index, 31 stocks gained, 18 fell, and one was unchanged. Turnover was $164.9 million.

Stocks across Asia were firmer today after cautious comments from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell overnight renewed expectations for a 50 basis-point rate cut in the US at the end of the month. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.5 percent in afternoon trading. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.2 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.7 percent.

“It’s been a pretty positive day in Asia,” said Peter McIntyre, investment advisor at Craigs Investment Partners. “The Federal Reserve in the US are probably tracking to the downside again rather than to the upside and that’s given markets a pretty positive boost and we’ve followed suit.”

Dairy players firmed, buoyed by broker upgrades and expectations tight global supplies will support prices near-term.

Synlait Milk led the market higher, climbing 4 percent to $9.38. Just over 74,600 shares traded, down from its 113,000 average the past three months.

A2 Milk was up 1.4 percent at $16.48, with almost 1.2 million shares changing hands – almost twice its average. The stock jumped more than 6 percent yesterday after UBS raised its recommendation to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral’ and put a $17.50 target price on it.

Units in the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund rose 1.8 percent to $3.95. They have now risen 11 percent after plunging to a record-low close of $3.55 a week ago.

McIntyre said Fonterra had regained some investors’ support. A2 was already supported and had now become “a bit of a momentum trade” as well.

Auckland International Airport was the heaviest traded stock today with almost 7.3 million shares changing hands – more than five-times its daily average. The stock rose 0.3 percent to $9.50.

Infratil rose 1.3 percent to $4.74. About 2.3 million shares changed hands, three-times its 671,000 three-month average. The Commerce Commission today cleared the firm’s $3.4 billion purchase of Vodafone New Zealand in partnership with Brookfield Asset Management.

Many of the country’s utilities have been trading near records in recent weeks after recent central bank rate cuts fuelled demand for defensive stocks paying reliable dividends.

McIntyre said the market has a sense of strength about it on the back of exceptionally low interest rates.

That “yield chase” means many stocks are trading on high multiples and the August reporting season will show – for some firms - whether they are justified.

“That’ll be the real test for them, in terms of where their earnings are and their outlook as well.”

Only three other stocks traded on volumes of more than a million shares. Spark New Zealand fell 1.1 percent to $3.895, Kiwi Property Group fell 0.3 percent to $1.615 and Precinct Property NZ rose 0.9 percent to $1.75.

Outside the benchmark index, fleet management technology company Eroad rose 4.8 percent to $3.04. June-quarter unit sales rose 6 percent, driven by strong growth in the US. Sales in New Zealand were as expected but sales to small- to medium-sized customers in Australia were soft.

“It’s a good start to the full year so that’s been positive,” McIntyre said.

IkeGPS rose 1.9 percent to 55 cents. The utilities measurement specialist today said June-quarter revenue climbed to $2.4 million, 26 percent more than a year ago, but it still reported a small operating loss for the quarter.

Homeware and sports goods retailer Briscoe rose 2.1 percent to $3.46. Stats NZ said nationwide spending on apparel and durables goods was strong last month, despite retail spending being generally lower than expected. Seasonally adjusted spending was unchanged from May and economists had expected a 0.7 percent lift.

Outdoor goods retailer Kathmandu fell 0.5 percent to $2.17. Warehouse Group fell 0.5 percent to $2.03.


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