New listing Vulcan Steel stole the limelight with an impressive earnings upgrade on another subdued trading day for the New Zealand sharemarket, falling more than half a per cent.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index fell at the opening, then traded in a narrow range and closed at 12,597.81, down 78.68 points or 0.62 per cent. The index has now fallen 3.8 per cent for the year – its worst performance since the global financial crisis in 2008.
There were 51 gainers and 82 decliners over the whole market, with 37.23 million shares worth $162.49 million changing hands.
Uncertainty over the impact of the Omicron Covid variant and an out-of-favour utilities sector have contributed to the market woes.
Jeremy Sullivan, investment adviser with Hamilton Hindin Greene, said there's continuing optimism about Omicron and what it will do to the economy.
"We've got another eight days to wait on the results of the 14-day studies on Omicron, but some investors have decided to pull the trigger and ask questions later. If there's a good outcome from the studies out of South Africa, then we could have a nice Christmas."
Sullivan said wholesale interest rates were down (today) but the utility stocks were not going up. They have been weighing on the market the most.
Vulcan Steel rose 47c or 5.61 per cent to $8.85 after telling the market its revenue for the five months ending November rose 35 per cent (the steel division was up 42 per cent and metals increased 22 per cent) with stronger-than-expected October and November trading.
The transtasman steel distributor and processor, benefitting from the strong construction sector, upgraded its prospectus forecasts for the 2022 financial year ending June.
Operating earnings (ebitda) are now expected to be $174m-$184m compared with $147m in the prospectus, a rise of up to 25 per cent, and net profit is forecast to be $93m-$100m compared with $74m, an increase of up to $35 per cent.
Rural services firm PGG Wrightson gained 11c or 2.53 per cent to $4.46 after upgrading its full-year operating earnings (ebitda) guidance to $58m following strong spring trading over the first half of the present financial year.
Otherwise, the leading stocks were again bouncing around. One day they are up and the next day they get chopped down. "The level of volatility is increasing and it just shows how jittery people are," Sullivan said.
Mainfreight fell $1.62 or 1.8 per cent to $88.53; Ebos Group declined 73c or 2.02 per cent to $35.36; Auckland International Airport decreased 6c to $7.76; Port of Tauranga shed 12c to $6.78; and Summerset Group Holdings was down 20c to $12.90.
Market leader Fisher and Paykel Healthcare was up 10c to $32.28; Fletcher Building increased 8c to $6.95, Skellerup Holdings collected 14c or 2.35 per cent to $6.10; and Spark gained 4c to $4.46 on trade worth $23.21m.
Scott Technology gained 8c or 2.29 per cent to $3.58; Delegat Group was up 25c or 1.82 per cent to $13.95; and Property for Industry increased 6c or 2.17 per cent to $2.83.
The interest rate-sensitive energy stocks had a bad day. Contact was down 6c to $7.87; Meridian fell 17c or 3.57per cent to $4.59; Mercury declined 10c to $5.90; Genesis tumbled 13c or 4.22 per cent to $2.95; and Trustpower decreased 9c to $7.31.
Infratil is also caught up in the utility sector's doldrums, falling 24c or 2.93 per cent to $7.95.
Synlait Milk was down 3c to $3.39 after telling the market it is partnering with Danone, AgResearch and Ministry for Primary Industries to complete a five-year on-farm study to determine the impacts of changes in soil health on production, farm resilience and the environment. The a2 Milk Company declined 7c to $5.69.
Other decliners were Serko decreasing 10c to $6.33; NZME shedding 4c or 2.82 per cent to $1.38; Gentrack losing 5c or 2.84 per cent to $1.71; new listing TradeWindow falling 5c or 2.75 per cent to $1.77; Radius Residential Care down 2.5c or 5.26 per cent to 45c; and NZ Automotive Investments losing 4c or 4.44 per cent to 86c.
Michael Hill International was down 3c or 2.56 per cent to $1.16; meal kit company My Food Bag reached a new low of $1.17 after falling 3c or 2.5 per cent; and Accordant Group declined 5c or 2.7 per cent to $1.80.
Plexure Group rose 4c or 9.52 per cent to 46c after telling the market its newly-bought TASK business has gained the Sydney Cricket Ground and new Sydney Football Stadium as new clients. The group is providing the venues with online point of sale and administration systems for engaging customers.