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MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks fall on global growth fears

MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks fall on global growth fears; AMP leads decliners, Wrightson rises

By Jason Krupp

Aug. 3 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand stocks fell to a four month low, joining a global slide in equities on signs economic growth is faltering in the U.S. and Europe. AMP Ltd. led decliners, and PGG Wrightson Ltd. rose.

The NZX 50 Index fell 27.18 points, or 0.8%, to 3,369.82, its lowest level since March 23. Within the index, 38 stocks fell, six rose, and six were unchanged. Turnover was a lower-than-usual $85.5 million.

Markets across the Asia Pacific were in full retreat mode today, following weaker than expected U.S. consumer spending figures, resurgent European debt fears, and the prospect that ratings agencies may downgrade the world's biggest economy in spite of the debt ceiling deal.

In afternoon trade, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell 2% to 9,650.06, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.9% to 21,995.75, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 1.9% to 4,347.70.

"We're just a balsawood boat in the stormy raging seas at the moment," said David Price, a broker at Forsyth Barr. "Volatility is very high, and markets are seeing the path of least resistance to the down side."

AMP, the wealth manager which this year acquired the Australia and New Zealand assets of Axa Asia Pacific Holdings, fell 4.5% to $5.35 on the NZX, and dropped 3.4% to $4.33 on the ASX.

Guinness Peat Group, the investment holding company, fell 4.3% to 67.5 cents.

APN News & Media Ltd., the Australian media company, fell 3.7% to $1.32.

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Goodman Fielder Ltd., the food ingredient manufacturer, fell 3.5% to $1.11.

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, the country's biggest lender, fell 3.3% to $25.15.

Heartland New Zealand Ltd., the financial services company looking to transform itself in to a bank, fell 3.2% to 61 cents.

NZX Ltd., the securities market operator, fell 3% to $2.30. The company today reported a 45.3% increase in activity on its equity market in July compared to the same month a year ago, while debt market activity fell 26.3% in the month compared to the same period last year.

Separately, the Financial Markets Authority today said it will be taking no action over disclosures by the NZX relating to its troubled investment in the Australian Clear Grain Exchange.

Kathmandu Holdings, the outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, fell 2.6% to $2.28, giving up some of yesterday's gains when it said full-year pre-tax profits would come in between 31% and 36% higher than expected.

Shares in Vital Healthcare Property Trust fell 1.7% to $1.14 after independent directors of the Australia & New Zealand Banking Group-owned manager said negotiations to internalise the property investor's management contract stalled over a $2 million price gap.

Bill Thurston and Graeme Horsley would have agreed to pay ANZ Bank’s OnePath $6 million to relinquish the contract, they said in a letter to unit holders released to the NZX today. OnePath wasn’t prepared to go lower than $8 million, down from the $14 million it originally mooted.

Former New Zealand Rugby Union head Chris Moller has been tapped to take over chairman of SkyCity Entertainment Group when Rod McGeoch retires at the 2012 annual shareholders’ meeting. SKC shares fell 1.4% to $3.60.

Wrightson, the rural services company looking to sell its finance unit to Heartland, rose 2.1% to 49 cents, leading gainers on the exchange. The stock is rated as a 'hold' according to the consensus view of five analysts compiled by Reuters, with a median target price of 54 cents.

Allied Farmers, the rural services company which failed to transform itself into a major lender, surged 28.6% to 0.2 cents after it announced that it would be selling some of its merchandising stores to rural supplies chain RD1 Ltd, which is owned by Fonterra Cooperative Group.

RD1 will buy six stores and lease one of Allied's 11 retail outlets, adding to the 57 stores it has nationwide. The price wasn’t undisclosed.

Ebos Group, the medical supplies company, rose 0.8% to $6.75. Auckland International Airport Ltd., the country's busiest gateway, rose 0.7% to $2.26.

Freightways Ltd., the express package company, rose 0.3% to $3.36. TrustPower Ltd., the electricity company controlled by Infratil Ltd., rose 0.1% to $7.13.

Fletcher Building Ltd., the country's biggest construction firm, rose 0.1% to $8.03.

(BusinessDesk)

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