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NZX CLOSE: Shares rise; Pumpkin Patch, MHI lead gains

Wednesday 10th March 2010

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New Zealand shares rose, led by children’s clothing retailer Pumpkin Patch and jewellery chain Michael Hill International after a survey showed consumer confidence in Australia continues to track higher.

The NZX 50 Index rose 12.98, or 0.4%, to 3226.19, the 10th advance in 11 sessions. Within the index, 23 stocks rose, 12 fell and 15 were unchanged. Turnover was $73.2 million.

Pumpkin Patch (NZX: PPL ), which counts Australia as its biggest market, climbed 3.8% to $2.18, leading the index higher.

Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index edged up 0.2% to 117.3 between February and March, suggesting central bank rate hikes haven’t yet sapped confidence. Separately, Reserve Bank of Australia Assistant Governor Philip Lowe said the economy is likely to expand at or above its average pace over the next few years.

Michael Hill (NZX: MHI ), which has more stores in Australia than in any other market, climbed 2.8% to 73 cents.

Telstra (NZX: TLS ) rose 2.6% to $3.89 on the NZX after the Australian Financial Review reported that the Australian government lacks the numbers in the Senate to force the phone company to split. Telecom (NZX: TEL ) rose 1.4% to $2.24.

AMP (NZX: AMP ), Australia’s biggest provider of pension plans, rose 1.3% to $8.

Investors are awaiting tomorrow’s Monetary Policy Statement from the Reserve Bank. While Governor Alan Bollard is expected to keep the official cash rate at a record low 2.5%, there’s debate about whether he will reiterate the likelihood of a mid-year hike or signal a longer wait.

Allied Farmers (NZX: ALF ) rose 1.3% to 7.6 cents. The firm’s $220 million writedown of recently acquired Hanover/United investments may significantly understate what value Allied could extract from its new loan assets in gross loan realisations, McDouall Stuart said in its market weekly update, rating the shares a ‘buy.’

Briscoe Group (NZX: BGR ), the operator of homeware, Rebel Sports and Living & Giving outlets, rose 1.5% to $1.37. Managing director Rod Duke said yesterday that he is “cautiously optimistic” for trading in 2010 after the company posted an 81% jump in annual profit, matching its forecast.

Pike River Coal (NZX: PRC ), which is raising $50 million to tide it over while it moves to full production at its South Island mine, gained 2.2% to 93 cents.

APN News & Media (NZX: APN ) fell 2.8% to $3.10, the biggest decline on the NZX 50 today. Contact Energy (NZX: CEN ) declined 1% to $6.09 and Restaurants Brands (NZX: RBD ) fell 1.6% to $1.88.

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