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Market update: Stocks sink on signs of prolonged slump

Friday 12th December 2008

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New Zealand shares fell, with the NZX 50 Index extending its up-down see-saw for a fifth day, after reports showed weak retail sales and a contraction in manufacturing, raising the prospect of dwindling earnings.

The NZX 50 fell 22.578, or 0.8%, to 2704.133. Within the index, 25 stocks fell, five rose and 20 were unchanged or untraded as at 12:30pm in Wellington. The index has declined about 33% this year.

Hellaby Holdings tumbled 14% to $1.25 after the diversified investment group said pretax earnings may fall as much as 26% this year on weakening demand. The New Zealand shares of APN News & Media, which trade infrequently on the NZX, fell 13% to $2.75. last month, chief executive Brendan Hopkins said fourth-quarter earnings would be at the low end of analysts' forecasts.

Warehouse Group, the biggest retailer on the NZX, fell 0.6% to $3.29. Government figures today showed retail sales unexpectedly fell 1.3% in October, reflecting a slump in auto sales and a decline for grocery stores and supermarkets.

"The trend is still pretty weak," said Robin Clements, chief economist at UBS New Zealand. Heading into the peak Christmas season, "retailers are braced to see how bad it is."

New Zealand manufacturing activity sank to a new record low in November, marking the seventh straight month of contraction as production tumbled, according to the Bank of New Zealand-Business NZ Performance of Manufacturing Index, released yesterday. Manufacturing fell 7.9 points to 35.4 last month, seasonally adjusted. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction.

Nuplex Industries, which makes resins and chemicals used in adhesives, paints and printing inks, fell 0.3% to $3.08.

New Zealand Oil & Gas gained 2.4% to $1.28 after crude oil surged 11% on comments by Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi said the kingdom pumped 8.493 million barrels of oil a day last month, 287,000 barrels a day less than the International Energy Agency had estimated.

Crude oil for January delivery rose to US$48.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose about 1% to $3.08 after saying in its interim report that its performance in the six months ended Sept. 30, the introduction of new products and growth in international sales "gives us confidence that we can achieve continuing strong revenue and earnings growth for the full year."

By Jonathan Underhill

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