NZ shares were mixed as cautious traders faced up to the realities of the ongoing economic crisis.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index fell 2.08 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 10,788.06. Within the index, 23 stocks rose, 20 fell and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $110.6 million.
Investors became cautious today after experts expressed scepticism about Moderna's vaccine trial and the International Monetary Fund warned the world's economy will take longer to recover from the pandemic than earlier expected.
Markets jumped yesterday after Moderna's reported early success in safety trials for a covid-19 vaccine gave hope for an early escape from the crisis. However, vaccine experts told health and medicine publication Stat News there was insufficient data to assess the vaccine.
Meanwhile, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva told Reuters worse than expected economic data from around the world would likely lead to a downwards revision of the fund's global GDP forecast and a much longer recovery from the Covid-19 outbreak.
"The market is prone to cling onto hope or a quick answer from time to time," Peter McIntyre, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners said.
While the market is quick to react to the possibility of a cure, the steam often disappears from the market as the heat of the moment dies down.
"We've seen that with the low volumes today, we've had cautious trading in our market," McIntyre said.
Trading volumes were comparatively light, only 27.1 million trades compared with the 90-day average of 49.1 million.
Fletcher Building fell 2.9 per cent to $3.30 after announcing it would cut 10 per cent of its workforce, or 1500 jobs, as the company responds to an expected 20 per cent reduction in activity during the Covid-19 downturn.
The construction company recorded a $55 million operating loss before interest and tax in April as a result of shutting down more than 400 sites during the government-mandated lockdown. It told the market today its Australian arm had broken even during this time
McIntyre said while the short-term outlook was weak, the company had the balance sheet to weather the difficult days and see a more optimistic 2021.
"In total they have $1.58 billion in liquidity, so their balance sheet is sitting in a strong position to cope with the downturn in 2020," he said.
Synlait Milk led the market lower, dropping 3 percent to $7.07. The stock bounced 4.9 per cent in trading yesterday.
Z Energy fell 2.4 per cent to $2.85 as reduced activity continued to weigh on the firm.
The company released its 2020 annual report, in which it warned investors to expect low fuel demand to continue through the first half of the 2021 financial year at least. Fuel volumes in the week ended May 17 recovered 7 per cent from the previous week but were still down 38 per cent from pre-lockdown levels.
McIntyre said weak demand and competition from direct refiners in Southern Asia was keeping the share price under pressure, now trading below its share purchase price of $2.90.
Tourism Holdings fell 2.7 per cent to $1.46 and SkyCity Entertainment declined 2.4 per cent to $2.40.
In contrast, air travel stocks gained. Air New Zealand rose 1.2 per cent to $1.26 and Auckland International Airport increased 0.9 per cent to $5.80.
Argosy Property saw the day's biggest gain after announcing a fourth-quarter dividend of 1.5875 cents to be paid June 24 bringing the full-year pay-out to 6.35 cents. Its share price rose 6.5 per cent to $1.1450.
The property investor and management firm today reported a 3.8 per cent lift in net distributable income for the March year and said it has provided tenants with $2.8 million in rent cuts during the past seven weeks.
McIntyre said investors were watching to see how hard the company was hit by rental abatements but had grabbed the opportunity to buy into the dividend.
"With the Reserve Bank talking negative rates the race is on to lock in some reasonable income," he said.
Other property stocks also caught some of the momentum. Goodman Property Trust rose 3.60 per cent to $2.30, Stride Property increased 1.3 per cent to $1.51 and Precinct Properties advanced 0.6 per cent to $1.60.
Among stock outside the index, kiwifruit grower and marketer Seeka announced it has conditionally sold three of its Australian orchards in a lease-back agreement in order to reduce debt. Its shares fell 2.2 per cent to $4.50. It also said tough growing conditions and lower margins meant earnings before tax would be between $9 million and $11.0 million for the 2020 financial year. It reported $9.8 million in profit last year.
AFT Pharmaceuticals declined 1.3 per cent to $4.66 despite reported annual operating profit near the top end of guidance and forecasting underlying growth of up to 58 per cent in the current year.