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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares drift lower as earnings loom

Wednesday 3rd February 2010

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New Zealand shares drifted lower amid speculation corporate earnings over the next few weeks will show the domestic economy is reviving only weakly. Rakon, Pike River Coal and NZ Farming Systems Uruguay were among the biggest decliners.

The NZX 50 Index fell 12.25, or 0.4%, to 3135.11. In the past 18 sessions, the index has gained only twice. Within the index, 18 shares fell, 19 rose and 13 were unchanged. Turnover was $53.5 million.

Rakon (NZX: RAK ), dropped 3.6% to $1.08, a 10-month low. The stock is rated ‘hold’ based on the consensus of six recommendations compiled by Reuters.

NZ Farming Systems (NZX: NZS ) fell 2.3% to 43 cents after the results of Fonterra’s latest online milk powder auction recorded a second month of decline. PGG Wrightson (NZX: PGW ), the nation’s biggest rural services group, fell 1.6% to 61 cents.

“You get the feeling New Zealand Inc is still doing the hard yards at the moment,” said Craig Brown, who helps oversee $3.3 billion at ING New Zealand. “That’s what we will see from the earnings of listed companies over the next few weeks.”

Pike River Coal (NZX: PRC ), which last week flagged further production delays at its sole mine in the South Island, sank 3.1% to 95 cents, returning to the eight-month low it reached last week. The mining company has indicated it may need to raise more funds to pay for mine development before making its first export sales of coking coal.

“They are running low on cash flow,” said Brown, who doesn’t own Pike stock and says risks around the company include its single mine and unproven geology. “If you want to have exposure to commodities, buy something like Rio Tinto.”

Auckland International Airport (NZX: AIA ) fell 0.5% to $1.95. The company has provided a prospectus for the third stage of its $126 million equity raising – for retail investors. They will have the opportunity to subscribe for about $48 million of discounted shares to help fund AIA’s investment in North Queensland Airports.

Pan Pacific Petroleum (NZX: PPP ) which was the biggest decliner yesterday, was the biggest gainer on the NZX 50 today, rising 2.6% from a 10-month low to 39 cents. New Zealand Oil & Gas (NZX: NZO ), which owns about 15% of Pan Pacific, fell 1.3% to $1.48.

AMP (NZX: AMP ) rose 1.9% to $7.90 on the NZX today, after Reuters reported that AMP won’t seek to extend its exclusive agreement with French insurer AXA SA for a joint US$11.4 billion bid for AXA Asia Pacific Holdings.

New Zealand Refining (NZX: NZR ) rose 1.3% to $3.80. Air New Zealand (NZX: AIR )climbed 0.8% to $1.32 and Contact Energy (NZX: CEN )rose 0.9% to $5.85.

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