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MARKET CLOSE: Telecom and Contact Energy make gains

Monday 29th June 2009

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New Zealand shares edged higher, with a late gain by Telecom and Contact Energy helping keep the NZX 50 Index above water for a third straight day. A shrinking trade deficit and a pick-up in housing permits stoked optimism the recession may be abating.

The NZX 50 climbed 4.5, or 0.2%, to 2775.11. Within the index, 30 stocks fell, nine rose and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $99 million.

Shares weakened across Asia today. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index was down about 1% to 9783.47 in early afternoon trading, with financials Daiwa Securities Group and Mizuho Financial Group falling on reports they're planning to raise new equity capital, diluting the value of existing holdings.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slipped 0.3% to 18544.18. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.3% to 2351.20.

Telecom (NZX: TEL ), the biggest company on the NZX 50, climbed 3.4% to $2.74, the highest since May 7. The shares are rated a ‘hold,’ based on the consensus of 14 analysts surveyed by Reuters. Contact Energy (NZX: CEN ), the biggest utility on the NZX 50, rose 1.8% to $5.75.

Government figures today showed the fourth straight merchandise trade surplus in May while building approvals climbed for a second month, led by permits for apartments. The Reserve Bank, which has kept the official cash rate at a record low, is forecasting the economy will return to growth in the fourth quarter. The trade surplus, though, was heightened by weak imports, a sign of the prolonged recession that will probably end with the recession.

“The trade surplus may not keep being achieved. Imports will pick up” as the economy does, said Stephen Wright, private client adviser at ASB Securities. The market’s gains may also reflect the looming end of quarter, as some institutions look to tidy up their portfolios, he said.

Pumpkin Patch Ltd (NZX: PPL ) rose 5.5% to $1.35, leading the NZX 50 higher. The children’s clothing chain is rated ‘outperform,’ according to the consensus of analysts’ forecasts compiled by Reuters. The shares have recovered from as little as 79 cents in February.

Tower Ltd (NZX: TWR ) rose 2.3% to $1.80 and has climbed 10% in the past month. The insurer posted a 32% gain in profit for the first half last month, or a 5% gain in underlying profit, to $20.4 million, reflecting growth in general insurance sales.

Jeweller Michael Hill International (NZX: MHI ) fell 2.9% to 66 cents and clothing chain Hallenstein Glasson Holdings (NZX: HLG ) slipped about 2% to NZ$2.50.

Retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare (NZX: RYM ) rose 1.9% to $1.59. The Statistics New Zealand report in building approvals for May showed that the gains were driven by an increase in permits for apartments, mainly reflecting units planned to be built in retirement villages.

Goodman Fielder (NZX: GFF ) dropped 4.9% to $1.55, leading decliners on the NZX 50. Skellerup Holdings (NZX: SKL ) fell 3.5% to 56 cents and exchange manager NZX Ltd (NZX: NZX ). declined 3.4% to $7.30.

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