A new way to get a high

While the debate over whether to legalise cannabis for medicinal reasons rages on in New Zealand, investors overseas are grabbing opportunities to invest in stocks benefiting from growth in the sector.

Canadian firm Horizons last week launched the first marijuana exchange traded fund on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The fund offers investors direct exposure into 14 North-American listed stocks that are involved with medical marijuana bioengineering and production.

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Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001 and the country could be poised to legalise recreational use next year, making the investment opportunity particularly attractive for cannabis connoisseurs.

Horizons spokesman Mark Noble said it would probably be quite difficult for New Zealanders to invest in this fund.

"They would have to work with a broker that has the ability to purchase Canadian-listed ETFs."

But there could be some options closer to home on the ASX where medical cannabis-related companies are proving to be very popular.

The Australian Financial Review reported this week that phytochemical profiling company eSense-Lab had risen 140 per cent this year on the back of strong support from the pot stock community.

While cannabis watering system manufacturer Roto-Gro International was also up more than 100 per cent.

OnMarket Bookbuilds chief executive Tim Eisenhauer told the AFR he expected investor demand to remain strong in this area and pointed to the book build for pot stock The Hydroponics Company, which lists next week, having to be closed after just two hours.

Recession Prediction?
A local fund manager has floated the idea of a possible global recession in 2019 if inflation rears its ugly head.

Christian Hawkesby, head of fixed interest at Harbour Asset Management, says some superstitious investors have pointed to 2017 as being a worrying year.

"They figure that the stockmarket crash in 1987, Asian crisis in 1997 and start of the GFC in 2007 make this the obvious year for troubles in markets."

But Hawkesby says 2019 may be the year to watch if the typical business cycle bears out.

Typical cycles start with low inflation and low interest rates designed to stimulate the economy before inflation increases to a point where central banks feel they have to step in to rein in back under control.

Hawkesby says what is missing from 2017 is that inflation pressure.

"We haven't seen that yet. It's probably why this economic expansion has been so long."

But he points to international research by BCA which suggests if stimulus packages proposed by US President Donald Trump get the sign off, they could add fuel to the inflation fire in America where the economy is starting to do well and interest rates are on the rise.

Hawkesby said his note of caution was designed to get people looking forward rather than worrying about 2017.

Locally he says a recession in New Zealand is harder to predict as it can be set off by random shocks like earthquakes, droughts and changes in commodity prices or exchange rates.

Like overseas New Zealand's inflation remains low although one bank has pointed to our economic cycle getting pretty mature.

Hawkesby says expansion cycles can only last for so long but there are no indicators pointing to a recession or sharp slow-down as yet.

Sink or float?
The success or otherwise of New Zealand's first share market float of the year could be known by today.

Retirement village and rest home operator Oceania Healthcare's book build closed off yesterday afternoon.

Book builds typically set the price for both institutions and retail investors - the lower the price the lower the level of interest and value seen in the stock.

Shares in the company have an indicative price range of 76c to $1.04 per share giving a wide potential market capitalisation of between $472 million to $571 million for the company.

Local investment players have pointed to luke-warm interest in the company driven by concerns over a slowing property market and plenty of choice in the retirement village sector.

Another blow to the listing would have been Infratil's decision to sell a block stake in Metlifecare.

Last Friday Infratil sold its 19.9 per cent stake in Metlifecare via brokers Forsyth Barr, which subsequently on-sold the shares to its clients at $5.61 a piece.

One market source said that move would have soaked up a bit of money which might otherwise have gone into Oceania.

Oceania is due to list on May 5.

Bum note for Chorus
Telecommunications network operator Chorus released a connection update yesterday which one fund manager has described as a bit grim.

Stephen Bennie at Castle Point Fund Management said the use of fixed copper lines had been in decline for some years but there were two trends in the latest update that were concerning.

"The number of customers bailing out of the old copper network may have reached an inflection point, disconnections are increasing at an increasing rate, 39k in the last quarter.

"This hits Chorus profit but is mitigated if those customers switch onto its fibre network.

"However the leakage there has also been growing, around 30 per cent of those customers are lost to Chorus."

Bennie said those customers were most likely switching to the fixed wireless offerings of Spark and Vodafone, which cuts Chorus out of the loop.

"This is definitely a bum note for the profitability of Chorus, especially if these two trends continue accelerating."