New Zealand shares had a soft start to the week as building tensions between the US and China stoked demand for defensive assets such as gold, which hit an all-time high.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 50.64 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 11,585.62. Within the index, 31 stocks fell, 12 rose, and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $121.1 million.
Gold prices hit a record US$1,943.92 per ounce, and were recently at US$1,934/oz, as investors piled into the precious metal as the tit-for-tat consulate closures between the US and China last week kept traders on edge. Rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases in some countries already had investors nervous about the severity of the recession facing the world.
Global market strategist Stephen Innes said this "combination of toxic factors" was weighing on equity market sentiment and causing the gold price to soar.
Matthew Goodson, a managing director at Salt Funds Management, said trading on the local market was quiet as traders waited for companies to report the next round of earnings.
"No news of tremendous importance in New Zealand, so the price moves we are seeing largely have a degree of randomness to them," he said.
"We are in that little phony season before reporting season kicks off."
Oceania Healthcare - which has a May balance date - was among the first to report last week, with its bottom-line weighed down by writedowns in the value of its property portfolio. The shares fell 1 per cent to $1 today.
Tourism Holdings led the market lower, dropping 4 per cent to $1.69. The company's key markets outside of NZ are the US and Australia, both of which are seeing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. The state of Victoria had its worst day of infections today, with 532 new cases and six deaths.
Kathmandu Holdings fell 2.6 per cent to $1.14 and Sky Network Television dropped 3.6 per cent to 13.5 cents.
Property stocks were mixed: Argosy Property dropped 3.1 per cent to $1.245, Goodman Property Trust declined 1.4 per cent to $2.15 and Property for Industry fell 1 per cent to $2.45.
In contrast, Kiwi Property Group rose 1.9 per cent to $1.05 and Investore Property held at $1.97.
Z Energy, which was the index's top mover last week when it gained 7.7 per cent, fell 0.3 per cent to $2.94, while New Zealand Refining Company posted the day's biggest increase, rising 2.9 per cent to 71 cents.
Sanford, which posted last week's biggest decline when it fell 4.6 per cent, rallied 0.6 per cent to $6.32.
A2 Milk Co fell 0.7 per cent to $20.70 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare declined 0.4 per cent to $35.11.
Synlait Milk fell 1.8 per cent to $7.07. Its Talbot Forest Cheese subsidiary voluntarily agreed to a precautionary recall of more than two dozen products on Friday after the Ministry for Primary Industries received unconfirmed test results indicating the presence of listeria in one of the products.
Outside the benchmark, Pacific Edge rose a further 11.6 per cent to 77 cents, extending an ongoing surge which has seen it gain more than 540 per cent this year.
On Friday, ANZ's funds management arm bought $22m of new shares in the company, at a 14 per cent premium, not long after the company was approved to provide services under the United States' national health insurance schemes.
"The market is continuing to get its head around the market size in the US and what the potential income streams could be," Salt's Goodson said.
This coming week some of the US's biggest tech stocks report their earnings. Technology giants Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet are all reporting results before Friday and investors will be watching closely.