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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares eke out gains in thin trade, Comvita weighs on market

Monday 23rd January 2017

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New Zealand shares eked out gains on the first day of trading after US President Donald Trump's inauguration as a rise in Auckland International Airport and defensive stocks like Kiwi Property Group offset a sharp fall in Comvita.

The S&P/NZX 50 index rose 19.37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,067.840. Within the index, 26 stocks gained, 16 fell and eight were unchanged. Turnover was a light $83 million due to a holiday in the capital city of Wellington.

"The big news of the day was the pretty disappointing profit warning from Comvita," said Brad Gordon, investment adviser for Hobson Wealth Partners. Comvita ended down 17 percent at $6.50.  Earlier Monday the manuka honey products maker warned annual earnings will tumble by about two-thirds as the nation's unseasonably wet and windy weather saps the honey harvest and slow sales via China's informal trading channels. 

That news also weighed on A2 Milk Co, which shed 4.4 percent to $2.17, as investors are concerned they are also facing challenges after China moved to tighten regulations in a bid to crack down on the grey market - or 'daigou'. "The avenues for direct selling into China are much tougher," said Gordon.

In the other direction, Auckland Airport rose 0.7 percent to $6.85, helping offset some of the slide in Comvita, said Gordon. He said strong visitor numbers and an improving regulatory environment is a "confluence of good news" for the stock. Air New Zealand added 0.7 percent to $2.18. Chorus rose 0.7 percent to $4.17. Gordon noted the stock has had a "good run of late," also on the potential for a better regulatory environment.  Spark New Zealand added 0.6 percent to $3.52 while construction company Fletcher Building added 0.7 percent to $10.45.

New Zealand Refining Co was the top performer on the benchmark index rising 1.5 percent to $2.69, paring some of Friday's losses. While oil edged up on Monday after statements from producers they have been complying with output cuts, a surge in US drilling put a damper on gains.

Kiwi Property was also a top performer on the benchmark index, gaining 1.4 percent to $1.44, possibly a defensive play as markets await more clarity on Trump's policies for the world's largest economy. "There is a bit of nervousness out there," said Gordon. Analysts said Monday that equity and foreign exchange markets are likely to tread water until there is more detail on his plans to accelerate economic growth, principally by easing taxes and regulation.

Scales Corp shed 1.4 percent to $3.43 while Summerset Group was down 0.8 percent at $4.71. 

Hellaby Holdings ended unchanged at $3.58 after ASX-listed auto firm Bapcor installed four new directors at Hellaby Holdings after securing control of the New Zealand firm. Last week Hellaby's independent directors said they supported the takeover, having previously argued that it undervalued the company.  The offer closes on Feb. 7, and Bapcor has received acceptances for 78.4 percent of Hellaby's shares.

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