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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall for a second day as defensive stocks end stellar run

Thursday 4th April 2019

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New Zealand shares fell for a second day as investors pared back their exposure to the equity market after the threat of lower interest rates spurred on demand for companies paying reliable dividends. Defensive stocks including Contact Energy, Mercury NZ and Infratil fell.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 46.66 points, or 0.5 percent, to 9,892.60. Within the index, 19 stocks fell, 21 gained, and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $145.1 million. 

The benchmark index rose 12 percent in the March quarter and hit a record on Monday, as investors piled into utilities and infrastructure companies paying reliable dividends to replace dwindling yields on bonds and term deposits. That demand pushed the likes of electricity generator-retailers Mercury, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy, and infrastructure investor Infratil to all-time highs. 

"The market may be giving a little bit back after a fantastic run on the low interest rate expectations," said Grant Davies, an investment adviser at Hamilton Hindin Greene. 

Contact led the market lower, down 2.7 percent at $6.80 on a volume of 1.7 million shares, in line with its 90-day average of 1.6 million. Lines company Vector fell 2 percent to $3.48, Mercury declined 1.5 percent to $3.87, Infratil declined 1.5 percent to $4.335 and Genesis slipped 1.5 percent to $3.03. Meridian rose 0.4 percent to $4.08 on a volume of 1.5 million shares. 

Spark New Zealand fell 1.6 percent to $3.59 on a bigger volume than usual of 9.1 million shares. It was the busiest stock on the day. Managing director Simon Moutter yesterday announced his exit at the end of the financial year on June 30, and will hand over the reins to customer director Jolie Hodson.

Morningstar Research said in a note that Moutter's exit has no impact on its fair value estimate of $3.80 a share, but noted that the market hates surprises and the stock is trading at a discount. 

Davies said Spark's decline the past two days was an over-reaction, and that since it posted subdued first-half earnings in February, the stock had lost the momentum it had late last year. 

Trade Me rose 0.2 percent to $6.44 on a volume of 4.1 million shares, more than twice its 90-day average. Shareholders yesterday agreed to a $6.45 per share takeover offer. 

SkyCity Entertainment Group was unchanged at $3.93 after announcing the sale of its Auckland car park for $220 million. Davies said the sale will free up cash for its development plans in Auckland and Adelaide, giving it some more headroom. 

Restaurant Brands New Zealand posted the biggest gain on the day, up 2.6 percent at $8.35. About 354,000 shares changed hands, more than twice the three-month average. 

Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Air New Zealand was unchanged at $2.675 as was Sky Network Television at $1.28. Goodman Property Trust increased 0.3 percent to $1.75 and Kiwi Property Group slipped 0.3 percent to $1.50. 

A2 Milk rose 0.3 percent to $14.79 on a volume of 500,000 shares, almost half its 90-day average. Auckland International Airport decreased 0.7 percent to $8.14 on a smaller volume than usual of 852,000. 

(BusinessDesk)

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