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MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks fall before Jackson Hole summit

MARKET CLOSE: NZ stocks fall before Jackson Hole summit; Tower leads decline, GPG rises

By Jason Krupp

Aug. 26 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand stocks fell, as investors trimmed their expectations that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would signal a further round of asset purchases when he addresses the central bankers' summit at Jackson Hole later tonight. Tower Ltd. fell and Guinness Peat Group rose.

The NZX 50 Index fell 5.94 points, or 0.2%, to 3,295.36. It rose 0.8% on the week. Within the index, 15 stocks fell, 23 rose, and 12 were unchanged. Turnover was $98.3 million.

Asia Pacific markets weakened amid speculation there's less prospect of another round of quantitative easing. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.1% to 8,762.64, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.2% at 19,710.07, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.1% to 4,207.4.

"It's inevitable that the market would start to feel a bit nervous ahead of tonight's meeting," said Alan Moore, executive director at Milford Asset Management. "There are only two outcomes, either investors wake up tomorrow feeling the world's a better place or they go back and reassess their view on the world."

Tower, the general insurer controlled by Guinness Peat Group, fell 3.6% to $1.36, leading decliners on the exchange. The stock is rated as 'outperform' according the consensus view of five analysts compiled by Reuters.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp., the manufacturer of breathing masks and respirators, fell 3.1% to $2.21.

Restaurant Brands NZ Ltd., the fast food franchise operator, fell 2.2% to $2.25.

PGG Wrightson Ltd., the rural services company looking to sell it finance unit to Heartland New Zealand Ltd., fell 2.1% to 46 cents. Heartland was unchanged at 54 cents.

Contact Energy Ltd., the electricity company, fell 1.9% to $5.21. Fletcher Building Ltd., the country's biggest construction firm, fell 1.7% to $7.72.

Guinness Peat Group, the investment holding company, rose 4.8% to 66 cents, leading gainers on the exchange after it lifted first-half earnings on the back of improved earnings and an asset sell off at subsidiary Coats Plc.

Profit attributable to shareholders rose to 17 million pounds in the six months ended June 30, from 12 million pounds a year earlier. Threadmaker Coats contributed 23 million pounds to the group, and asset sales added a net 36 million pounds.

"It was a good result but there are still a lot of uncertainties out there," Moore said. "They've started to sell off assets, with the easiest ones sold first but it gets harder as you get down, so the jury is still out on them."

Rakon Ltd., the maker of crystal timing components used in electronics, rose 2.4% to 84 cents. Steel & Tube Holdings, the construction materials supplier, rose 2.4% to $2.55.

Vector Ltd. rose 2.1% to $2.45 after the Auckland electricity and gas distributor lifted annual profit 4.1% as it booked gains from a deal with Transpower New Zealand Ltd. and a tax accounting benefit.

Net profit was $203.8 million, or 20.2 cents per share, in the 12 months ended June 30, up from $193.5 million, or 19.4 cents.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances Holdings, the whiteware manufacturer, rose 2.1% to 49 cents, with the stock recovering some of the ground it lost yesterday when it said would miss its own earnings forecast.

Sky Network Television Ltd., the pay TV operator, rose 1.7% to $5.85 after annual net profit rose 16.8% as subscriber numbers grew to a record and more switched to MySky.

Net profit for the year ended June 30 rose to $120.3 million from $103 million the previous year as revenue rose 7.4% to $796.9 million. Subscriber numbers grew 3.4%, or by 27,024, to 829,421 during the year and Sky said it is now in 48.7% of New Zealand homes.

Pharmaceuticals and medical supplies distributor Ebos Ltd. rose 0.3% to $6.70 after it lifted annual net profit 38% reflecting the sale of its scientific operations, operational improvements and a small sales increase.

Net profit rose to $31.6 million for the year ended June 30, which included an $8.2 million one-off gain from the asset sale. Profit before that sale was up 18.8% while sales rose just 2% to $1.34 billion.


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