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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares join Asian rally

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares join Asian rally on optimism over trade talks

New Zealand shares joined a rally across Asia as investors were more optimistic about the upcoming trade negotiations between the US and China.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 40.53 points, or 0.4 percent, to 11,016.15. Within the index, 29 stocks rose, 16 fell and five were unchanged. Turnover was $128.7 million.

Stocks across Asia were largely stronger, with the Shanghai Composite Index up 0.8 percent in afternoon trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.4 percent and South Korea's Kospi 200 Index advanced 0.9 percent.

Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said a more positive view of the trade outlook was supporting equity markets today, although investors will want to see something more substantial by the end of the week

"The markets are a bit wary about the whole thing. We've had so many false starts on these discussions that until something concrete's put on the table it's hard to get too carried away," he said.

Mercury NZ chief executive Fraser Whineray's decision to leave the electricity generator-retailer for Fonterra Cooperative Group was the major corporate news of the day. Whineray will end five years in charge of Mercury in 2020 to take up the reins as chief operating officer at Fonterra. Both stocks benefited from the news, with Mercury up 0.9 percent at $5.45 and Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units rising 1.3 percent to $4.05.

Fonterra fund units have jumped from $3.15 over the past month, with investors more upbeat about the cooperative's prospects with a new strategy.

McCarthy said the stock also offered investors a value proposition at a much cheaper price.

The rival power companies were generally stronger, with Meridian Energy up 0.2 percent at $5.35 on a volume of 1.5 million shares. Trustpower rose 0.1 percent to $8.28 and Contact Energy advanced 2.2 percent to $8.98 on a volume of 1.4 million shares. Genesis Energy slipped 1.1 percent to $3.50.

Summerset Group rose 1.7 percent to $6.52 after reporting an 11.5 percent increase in third-quarter unit sales, with strong growth in resales and stable new sales.

Ryman Healthcare decreased 0.1 percent to $12.93, Metlifecare rose 1.1 percent to $4.45, and Arvida Group fell 1.4 percent to $1.46.

Stride Property Group led the market higher, up 3.9 percent at $2.41 on an unusually small volume of 77,000 shares, compared to its 90-day average of 388,000.

Fletcher Building was the most traded stock on a volume of 2.8 million shares, more than twice its 1.3 million average. It rose 0.8 percent to $4.85. Spark New Zealand was up 1.9 percent at $4.65 on a volume of 2.1 million shares.

Of other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Auckland International Airport fell 1.2 percent to $9.08, Air New Zealand increased 0.9 percent to $2.855, Goodman Property Trust increased 1.4 percent to $2.24, Precinct Properties New Zealand was unchanged at $1.85, Kiwi Property Group edged up 0.3 percent to $1.67, and Z Energy rose 1.3 percent to $5.64.

Port of Tauranga posted the day's biggest decline, down 1.7 percent at $6.39 on a slightly lighter volume than usual of 104,000 shares.

Synlait Milk increased 1.6 percent to $9.16 after long-serving chief financial officer Nigel Greenwood announced his exit early next year. A2 Milk Co declined 1.1 percent to $13.04.

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.4 percent to $29.30 after it said annual earnings will be hit by a A$559 million cost to remediate over-charging and mis-selling products to its customers.

Outside the benchmark index, New Zealand Oil & Gas jumped 16 percent to 72 cents after the energy explorer's suitor and major shareholder OG Oil & Gas lifted a takeover offer by 12 cents to 74 cents.

AFT Pharmaceuticals climbed 4.7 percent to $3.10 after it said it signed a memorandum of understanding to work with medicinal cannabis company Setek on how to develop business models for medicinal cannabis products. Rival medicinal cannabis firm Cannasouth fell 1.5 percent to 65 cents.

Evolve Education rose 11 percent to 11.9 cents after the early childhood education centre operator said it bought four centres in Melbourne for A$11.8 million. The acquisitions are expected to add A$2.5 million to annual earnings.

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