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Stocks to watch: New Zealand equity preview

Thursday 30th October 2008

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Themes of the day: The US Federal Reserve cut its target rate by 50 basis points to 1% as expected to revive growth in the world's biggest economy. Stocks on Wall Street gyrated between gains and losses amid concern the Fed's move won't be enough to stem a recession. Oil, copper and other commodities gained. In New Zealand, figures today will show building consents for September, providing a clue to the degree of the housing slump. The kiwi dollar strengthened to 58.75 US cents.

Air New Zealand (AIR): The national carrier's rival Qantas Airways yesterday said the weakening Australian dollar will help lift demand. "Normally when it turns around, we would expect inbound travel to gain," chief executive Geoff Dixon said. New Zealand's dollar has fallen 10 US cents this month. Air New Zealand rose 1.2% to 86 cents, paring its slump this year to 55%.

Lion Nathan (LNN): The Australian brewer's shares surged 7.8% to NZ$9.70 on the NZX yesterday. The website yesterday reported that beer sales tend to pick up in hard times, making brewers a good bet in an economic slump. The report cited a 30-year study in Australia that tracked beer sales against the Westpac Consumer Confidence Survey. The stock has declined about 16% this year, less than half the decline of the NZX 50 Index.

Lyttelton Port (LPC): The company has signed a memorandum of understanding to explore a merger of port operations with Port Otago Ltd. The shares last traded on Oct. 21 at NZ$2.22 and are down 13% this year.

Methven (MVN): The tap maker today raised its first-half dividend to 6.25 cents a share from 5.7 cents after reporting a 29% gain in profit to NZ$3.8 million. Sales rose 66% to NZ$71.8 million. The company is confident it can "weather the storm" in the world economy, according to Chairman Phil Lough. The stock traded at NZ$1.30 yesterday and is down 36% this year.

New Zealand Oil & Gas (NZO): Oil for December delivery rose 7.6% to US$67.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price has slumped more than 50% from its record high US$147.27 in July. The company's shares rose 3.3% to NZ$1.25 yesterday.

Skellerup Holdings (SKL): The manufacturer yesterday said trading in the first three months of the year met expectations, putting it on track for a full-year profit of $13.5 million. The shares fell 1.3% to 79 cents yesterday and are down 26% this year.

By Jonathan Underhill

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