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MARKET CLOSE: NZ stock flat in wait for New Year

Wednesday 29th December 2010

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The New Zealand sharemarket was flat today in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year - only 7.45 million shares changed hands, valued at $18.36 million.

Some of the regional markets across Asia were a little firmer in light holiday trade - following mostly higher leads from the United States - but the NZX top 50 index fell 0.108%, or 3.59 points, to 3325.62, compared to the close on Friday.

In Australia, the ASX 200 was 0.2% lower at 4766 after fading from an early high of 4784 - also in extremely light trading volumes - and commentators pointed to the prospect of bad news for NSW and Queensland miners from continuing floods.

The New Zealand dollar followed its Australian and Canadian counterparts higher as China cut rare earth exports - fuelling demand for "commodity currencies" already under pressure from an interest rate rise in China.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.9% while the Nikkei stock average was up 0.4% and Shanghai's composite was stronger by 0.1%.

But in New Zealand, Auckland Airport (NZX: AIA ) rose 3c to $2.20, and a lot of shares nudged up 1c, including Nuplex (NZX: NPX ) to $3.50, Michael Hill (NZX: MHI ) to $8.80, Goodman Property (NZX: GMT ) to 95, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare (NZX: FPH ) to $3.17 and Ebos Group (NZX: EBO ) to $7.32.

Fletcher Building (NZX: FBU ) eased 2c to $7.73, and fellow leading stock Telecom (NZX: TEL ) fell 1.8%, or 4c to $2.18, on a volume of 3.16m shares.

Among energy stocks, Contact (NZX: CEN ) rose 1c to $6.21, and Trustpower (NZX: TPW ) fell 5c to $7.35, while among the banks, ANZ Bank (NZX: ANZ ) fell 15c to $31.50, and Westpac (NZX: WBC ) rose 29c to $30.79.

In Sydney, where the Chinese interest rate hikes on Saturday hurt resource stocks, Tower Australia - a spin-off from Tower New Zealand - jumped 42c to $A3.88 after Dai-ichi Life Insurance offered $A4 a share.

The US's Dow Jones industrial average finished slightly higher, though stocks had dipped earlier on disappointing consumer confidence and home prices reports.

The Dow edged up 20.51 points, or 0.2%, to 11,575.54. The Standard and Poor's 500 index was up 0.97, or less than 0.1%, to 1258.51. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 4.39 points or 0.2%, to 2662.88.



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