Investors from across the Tasman stayed away on their Australian Day public holiday and a nervous New Zealand sharemarket drifted for most of the day and then had a late fall on light trading.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index closed down 75.64 points or 0.56 per cent at 13,323.46, after reaching a high of 13,430.32.
Local brokers missed the contact from their Australian clients and just 36.04 million shares worth $127.84 million were traded. There were 60 gainers and 83 decliners over the whole market of 184 stocks.
Dan Stratful, investment adviser with Forsyth Barr, said the local market was becoming difficult to find a bargain – a bit like the housing market.
"Investors don't mind paying a bit over the top if the stocks are continuing to grow strongly. I may be able to describe the market better after the reporting season next month," he said. "It's had a good run and at some point there will be a correction – and then it will be eagerly bought again.
"In the United States there are pockets of the market where valuations are stretched – such as small, fast-growing technology stocks, but not the large ones like Microsoft and Google. New Zealand doesn't have the same technology sector but the gentailers have been over-stretched, though they have come back lately.
"We've come to accept the daily volatility in Meridian and Contact and yet they are meant to be stable stocks and good for the retirees – but I don't know about that at the moment," said Stratful.
Fisher and Paykel Healthcare led the market's late turnaround. It was having another rebound day reaching a high of $36.15 but then lost that gain and more, closing at $34.75, down 62c or 1.75 per cent on trade worth $17m. Mainfreight dropped $1 to $68.80.
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Utilities investor Infratil had another strong day, rising 17c or 2.24 per cent to $7.75 on rumours of a second takeover bid being launched from across the Tasman.
Fletcher Building was up 27c or 4.3 per cent to $6.55, and a2 Milk increased 10c to $11.07. Its supplier Synlait Milk rose 5c to $4.71 after increasing its forecast milk price to $7.20kg milk solids, from $6.40kgMS, for the 2020-21 season, driven by the strong rise in dairy commodity prices over recent months.
Contact Energy fell 34c or 3.68 per cent to $8.90; Meridian was down 20c or 2.47 per cent to $7.90; and Mercury declined 17c or 2.31 per cent to $7.20. Genesis was up 5c to $3.83, and Tilt Renewables climbed 21c or 3.45 per cent to $6.30.
Vector was down 5c to $4.25 on its half year report. For the six months ending December, network connections in Auckland grew 1.8 per cent to 586,480 compared with the previous corresponding period, but electricity volume distributed fell 1.6 per cent because of the reduced activity in the industrial and commercial sectors due to Covid-19. The same applied to gas – connections grew 2.1 per cent to 115,432, but distribution decreased 3.8 per cent.
Auckland International Airport was down 21c or 2.8 per cent to $7.29; Air New Zealand fell another 2c to $1.63; Serko shed 12c or 2.14 per cent to $5.50; Seeka declined 6c to $4.80; and Sanford decreased 9c or 1.87 per cent to $4.72.
Sky Network Television hit the gainers board with a 0.09c or 5.66 per cent rise to 16.8c. Pacific Edge recovered 6c or 5.94 per cent to $1.07; water cooler supplier Just Life climbed 8c or 9.64 per cent to 91c and carpet marker Cavalier increased 2c or 5.56 per cent to 38c. Evolve Education was down 4c or 3.1 per cent to $1.25.
Chorus was unchanged at $8.40 after reporting it has now completed 92 per cent of its ultra-fast broadband roll-out. For the second quarter of its 2021 financial year, fibre uptake increased 63 per cent and connections grew by 29,000. Copper broadband and voice connections declined by 50,000.