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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares dip as trade war fears linger

Monday 19th November 2018

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New Zealand shares fell for a fifth day as investors remain wary of the impact a trade war will have on company earnings with export-focused stocks Tourism Holdings and Pushpay still under pressure. Fletcher Building declined ahead of tomorrow's annual meeting. 

The S&P/NZX 50 index decreased 16.77 points, or 0.2 percent, to 8,792.93. Within the index, 28 stocks fell, 19 gained and three were unchanged. Turnover was smaller than usual at $80.3 million. 

New Zealand's benchmark index followed Australia lower as comments by US vice president Mike Pence at the APEC leaders' meeting over the weekend kept investors nervous about the protracted trade dispute between the US and China. The world's two biggest economies have been at odds over the past 18 months, and investors are worried an economic slowdown will undermine company earnings. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.6 percent in afternoon trading. 

Shane Solly, a portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management, said New Zealand's market held up well, with the local economy still in reasonably good health. That means companies need to meet or beat earnings expectations to maintain their current pricing. The NZX's average historic price-to-earnings is 17 times. 

"There's a little bit of volatility at a high level and companies reporting here which is taking people's attention," he said. "At an overarching level investors are still pretty wary about slowing activity and extended tariff discussion." 

Tourism Holdings led the market lower on smaller than usual volumes, falling 3.4 percent to $4.82, the lowest close in 12 months. Pushpay dropped 3.1 percent to $3.15, the lowest close since November last year. 

Solly said Tourism Holdings has been unwinding its gains as investors question the future of its US business, while Pushpay is still under pressure from its recent earnings report. 

Fletcher Building declined 2.1 percent to seven-month low $5.55 on a third of the average trading. Tomorrow's AGM will be the first for chief executive Ross Taylor and chair Bruce Hassall. 

A2 Milk was the most traded stock with 1.4 million shares changing hands. It rose 3 percent to $10.47 ahead of tomorrow's annual meeting, and Solly said investors expect the milk marketing firm's trading update to show double-digit revenue growth. 

Among other companies with more than a million shares changing hands, Spark New Zealand declined 1.8 percent to $4.125 and Goodman Property Trust was unchanged at $1.515. 

Kiwi Property Group fell 1.1 percent to $1.345 after reporting a small decline in first-half underlying earnings after asset sales provided a smaller income stream. Investore Property decreased 0.7 percent to $1.50 after distributable earnings edged higher. 

Outside the benchmark index, Metro Performance Glass plunged 24 percent to a record 64 cents after acknowledging a new entrant to the local market was likely to emerge in the next 18 months. Solly said the new rival will be a significant change for the company. 

Sanford fell 2.1 percent to $7.05 after agreeing to sell its Tauranga-based fishing business for an undisclosed sum. Separately, First NZ Capital affirmed its 'neutral' rating on the stock while cutting the target price 11 percent to $7.39. 

Heartland Group slipped 0.7 percent to $1.51 after lifting first-quarter profit 8.7 percent on growth at its reverse mortgage business and in small business and auto lending. 

(BusinessDesk)

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