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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as yield appeal dims; retirement stocks extend decline

Thursday 11th April 2019

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New Zealand shares fell as the attraction of yield stocks lost their lustre now most have shed rights to dividends. Retirement village operators such as Metlifecare and Ryman Healthcare extended their decline

The S&P/NZX 50 index dropped for a sixth session, down 79.34 points, or 0.8 percent, at 9,707.96. Within the index, 31 stocks fell, 14 gained, and five were unchanged. Turnover was $150.4 million. 

Stocks across Asia were broadly weaker, following Wall Street's lead, as ongoing trade tensions between the US and China and a downgraded global growth outlook from the International Monetary Fund kept investors uneasy. 

Property and utilities stocks, which typically pay reliable dividends, were the most traded stocks. A number of companies gave up recent gains after shedding rights to their recently announced dividend payments. 

Several of those yield plays have been trading near records as investors who would usually seek stable returns in corporate bonds have sought higher returns in the low interest rate environment. The NZX50's average dividend yield of 4.83 percent is the third highest across Asia-Pacific benchmark indices tracked by Refinitiv. 

"A lot of investors who require yield were forced up the risk curve and took on equity risk rather than corporate bonds, where rates are now getting issued in the low-to-mid-threes," said Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management. 

Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock on a volume of 4 million shares and was down 2.1 percent at $3.575. Meridian Energy dropped 2.2 percent to $3.97 on a volume of 2.9 million shares and Kiwi Property Group was down 0.7 percent at $1.465 on a volume of 1.5 million shares. 

Among other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Fletcher Building fell 1.4 percent to $4.96, Contact Energy fell 1.2 percent to $6.67, Precinct Properties New Zealand decreased 0.3 percent to $1.555, A2 Milk Co declined 0.7 percent to $14.62, Argosy Property was unchanged at $1.27 and Sky Network Television fell 1.6 percent to a new low of $1.24. 

Retirement stocks remained under pressure after Summerset Group cited slowing property markets in Auckland and Christchurch for denting its first-quarter unit sales. Metlifecare led the market lower, down 2.4 percent at $4.47 on a volume of 672,000 shares, more than three times its 90-day average of 196,000. 

Ryman fell 1.7 percent to $11.560 on a volume of 1.2 million shares, compared to its 439,000 average. Summerset was down 0.4 percent at $5.53 on a volume of 888,000, more than twice its 288,000 average. 

Goodson said the property market slowdown will probably show greater diversity across the different companies, which have enjoyed a tailwind of rising house prices and an ageing population for several years. 

"The housing slowdown is really only in Auckland and Christchurch at this stage. If it does spread more widely, the balance sheets of these businesses could come under a bit of examination," he said. 

Arvida Group rose 0.8 percent to $1.31. 

Trustpower fell 2.4 percent to $6.98 after saying annual earnings were in the middle of its guidance, and warning 2020 earnings may fall on a decline in generation and fewer mass market customer numbers.

Its controlling shareholder, Infratil, held an investor day in Wellington where it too projected a fall in operating earnings in 2020. It slipped 0.2 percent to $4.24, while Tilt Renewables decreased 0.4 percent to $2.35. 

Chorus fell 1.6 percent to $5.955 after reporting an increase in broadband connections in the March quarter, as new fibre customers outpaced a decline in copper line customers. 

Air New Zealand posted the biggest gain on the day, up 2.4 percent at $2.81, on a volume of 967,000 shares. Port of Tauranga rose 1.8 percent to $5.60, and Scales Corp was up 0.6 percent at $5.03. 

Outside the benchmark index, Hallenstein Glasson fell 5.5 percent, or 27 cents, to $4.68, after shedding rights to a 20-cent interim dividend. 

Wellington Drive Technologies rose 11 percent to 26 cents after reporting a 33 percent increase in March-quarter revenue and affirming annual earnings guidance. 

Michael Hill International dropped 7.1 percent to 65 cents after reporting weaker March-quarter sales, and skinnier gross margins. 

(BusinessDesk)

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