The leading stocks, in expansive mood, brought some Christmas cheer to investors and the New Zealand sharemarket with impressive gains.
The dividend-yielding big cap shares drove the S&P/NZX 50 Index to 12,842.69, up 234.95 points or 1.86 per cent – its biggest rise in 10 weeks. There were 76 gainers and 62 decliners over the whole market on volume of 56.3 million shares worth $229.17 million.
Greg Smith, head of research with Fat Prophets, said the defensive stocks with appealing dividends have come back into play. "Interest rates are not going up any time soon – in fact the Reserve Bank has said it will keep rates low for some years.
"There is still some uncertainty involving the economy, such as how well the Covid-19 vaccine will work, and dividend yields will remain paramount as we go into 2021," Smith said.
One of the biggest dividend payers, Spark, was up 11c or 2.37per cent to $4.75, after drifting from $5 in August to as low as $4.41. Other dividend stocks Meridian increased 19c or 2.92 per cent to $6.70; Mercury gained 29c or 4.79 per cent to $6.35; Trustpower was up 20c or 2.6 per cent to $7.90; and Ebos Group climbed 11c to $28.01.
The a2 Milk Company pepped up after some torrid falls following its earnings downgrade, rising 55c or 5.03 per cent to $11.49 on trade worth $26.25m. Smith said investors went value hunting on a2 Milk – it has been a big slide since it hit $21.50 in mid-August.
Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, the leading local cap stock, had one of its up days, increasing $1.17c or 3.57 per cent to $33.92 on trade worth $27.4m. Smith said Fisher and Paykel – still well-placed to sell its respiratory devices - is a reminder that Covid won't disappear overnight with lockdown in parts of England and a new community cluster in Sydney.
"We were half way to a transtasman travel bubble and it's just got more difficult and I wouldn't be surprised if the bubble wasn't pushed out past March," Smith said. One of the big recipients of the travel bubble, Air New Zealand, fell 5.5c or 3.11 per cent to $1.715.
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The retirement village operators had strong days – Ryman Healthcare rising 45c or 3.06 per cent to $15.15, Summerset Group Holdings up 54c or 4.74 per cent to $11.94, and Oceania Healthcare gaining 3c to $1.41.
Mainfreight rose $1.15 or 1.85 per cent to $63.25, and its chairman Bruce Plested now has a billion dollars of shares in the transport and logistics operator. His holding of 15.93m shares is worth $1.007 billion.
Property for Industry gained 7c or 2.43 per cent to $2.43, and AFT Pharmaceuticals was up 17c or 3.75 per cent to $4.70.
The Warehouse Group climbed 18c or 7.06 per cent to $2.73 after announcing it was repaying the Covid wage subsidy of $68m on the back of improved retail trading. The group reported first quarter sales increased 6.3 per cent and the trading performance in the lead-up to Christmas is ahead of that quarter's gain. Fellow retailer Hallenstein Glasson gained 22c or 3.4 per cent to $6.70.
Cancer diagnostic firm Pacific Edge, which has developed the non-invasive Cxbladder test, celebrated its re-rating with a further 9c or 7.89 per cent gain to a new high of $1.23. Pacific Edge has now climbed 780 per cent in the past 12 months, and was sitting at 12c at the start of this year and 70c on December 1.
Tilt Renewables has settled court proceedings by the Australian Energy Regular over protection settings on the wind turbine generators at the Snowtown stage two wind farm in Victoria. Tilt is paying a penalty of $1m, and its share price rose 17c or 2.89 per cent to $6.05.
Trading in Abano Healthcare Group has stopped and the transtasman dental company will be delisted following the takeover by BGH Capital and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan at $5.20 a share. Abano shareholders have been paid out and the number of stocks listed on the NZX is now 184.