New Zealand shares rose in heavy trading as index re-weightings heightened activity in a week that had already been punctuated by some large investors repositioning their portfolios. Gentrack led the market higher.
The S&P/NZX Index increased 37.77 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 9,473.27. Within the index, 32 stocks rose, 10 fell, and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $407.1 million, of which Spark accounted for $64.2m and Contact Energy contributed $57.2m.
Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets, said global investor sentiment seemed to have become relatively upbeat, with US markets at four-month highs and the likely delay to Brexit pushing out some uncertainty in financial markets for the time being.
"Weaker Chinese data this week seems to have been taken in its stride and generally the optimists are outweighing the pessimists," he said.
The stock market operator extended the adjustment session of local trading to allow for the quarterly rebalancing of the S&P/NZX indices and the FTSE Russell index, in which some stocks are added and removed to the benchmarks for passive investment vehicles. More than 104 million shares were traded today, more than three times the 90-day average of 28.1 million.
Sky Network Television was the most actively traded stock on a volume of 27.9 million shares; about 17.7 million Spark shares changed hands and 8.9 million Contact shares were traded. That compares to the respective 90-day averages for the three stocks of 787,000, 5.4 million, and 1.4 million.
Sky TV shares were unchanged at $1.40, Spark shares edged up 0.1 per cent to $3.625, and Contact was unchanged at $6.40. Spark and Contact both cleared large volumes yesterday as institutional investors repositioned their portfolios.
Spark also said it will take up an option to renew some radio spectrum rights in 2021 which are used for 3G and 4G mobile services. Smith said 5G services are the main potential for growth during the next five years.
Scales Corp is typically a lightly traded stock with a 90-day average of about 77,000. However, today it rose 1.3 per cent to $4.80 on a volume of 2.6 million. Argosy Property gained 2.9 per cent to $1.26 on a volume of 1.2 million, more than twice its three-month average. Meridian Energy was unchanged at $3.85 on a volume of 4.5 million.
Gentrack led the NZX50 higher, up 4.3 per cent at $4.86 on a volume of 47,000, less than its usual 69,000 shares. Fellow software firm Pushpay Holdings also gained, up 0.3 per cent at $3.31 on a volume of 5 million shares, more than 12 times its three-monthly average.
Trading was largely unaffected by the mass shooting in Christchurch, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence in "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
Tourism-related stocks were mainly stronger after data showed a 5.3 per cent increase in visitor arrivals in January. Tourism Holdings rose 2.1 per cent to $4.87 on a smaller volume than usual of 105,000. Auckland International Airport gained 1.8 per cent to $7.94 on volume of 3.1 million and Air New Zealand decreased 1.5 per cent to $2.32 on a volume of 2.3 million. It was the stock's lowest close in almost two years.
Vector gained 1.7 per cent to $3.52 on a volume of 735,000, compared to its 152,000 average. The Auckland-based electricity, gas and telecommunication lines company hired long-serving Sky TV chief financial officer Jason Hollingworth as its new CFO, effective from May.
Restaurant Brands New Zealand rose 3.4 per cent to $9.20. Suitor Finaccess Capital yesterday crossed the 75 per cent cap in its $9.45 a share partial takeover, meaning its offer will now be scaled.
Fonterra Shareholders Fund units fell 1.8 per cent to $4.29. Fonterra today scaled back its forecast increase in milk collection, blaming the dry weather. However, it will reduce how much it sells on the Global Dairy Trade auction over the next four months, which should support the global price.
Synlait Milk gained 3.4 per cent to $11.19. Both Synlait and Fonterra are scheduled to report first-half earnings next week.
Metlifecare posted the biggest decline, down 2.3 per cent at $4.77 on a volume of 852,000, compared to its 160,000 three-monthly average.
Of other stocks that traded on volumes of more than 3 million shares, Trade Me Group was unchanged at $6.39 and Kiwi Property Group rose 1.1 per cent to $1.425. Of those that traded on more than 2 million, A2 Milk fell 2 per cent to $13.93, Fletcher Building declined 0.4 per cent to $4.67 and SkyCity Entertainment was up 1.3 per cent at $3.90.
Of the million-plus volume stocks, Precinct Properties New Zealand slipped 0.3 per cent to $1.53, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare gained 0.5 per cent to $15.06, and Mercury NZ edged up 0.1 per cent to $3.69.
Outside the benchmark index, Hallenstein Glasson Holdings rose 0.5 per cent to $4.28 after appointing board member Mary Devine as managing director from April. She's replacing chief executive Mark Goddard, who unexpectedly announced his departure last month.