The high-flying energy stocks were mauled by profit-taking as the New Zealand sharemarket suffered its heaviest fall in four months.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index slumped 268.10 points or 1.98 per cent to 13,290.09. The index beat the previous biggest drop of 1.91 per cent on September 4 when it closed 11,824.31.
There were 68 gainers and 79 decliners over the whole market on steady volume of 110.2 million shares worth $159.93 Meridian shed 72c or 7.88 per cent to $8.42; Contact Energy was down 71c or 6.6 per cent to $10.04; Mercury lost 30.5 or 4.13 per cent to $7.08; Genesis declined 11c or 2.83 per cent to $3.78; and Trustpower fell 14c to $8.56. Vector was the only energy company to rise, gaining 3c to $4.29.
Jeremy Sullivan, investment adviser with Hamilton Hindin Greene, said the price earnings ratios of Contact and Meridian were more inflated than warranted and those stocks were probably due a correction.
"The New Zealand institutional investors came back from their break, saw how far Contact and Meridian had risen and thought 'geez, they look overpriced — I wouldn't mind taking some profit on that'."
The United States markets were closed overnight and the clean energy exchange traded funds (ETFs), which have pushed Contact and Meridian's prices skywards, were absent from the day's trading.
Sullivan said it shows the influence passive investing has on the local market. "It used to make up 20-30 per cent of the trading; now it's 70 per cent. The BlackRock ETF holds 9 per cent of Contact and Meridian, and today there were 2.6m Meridian shares traded compared with 8m on Friday."
Other stocks which have had strong runs lately were also the centre of attention for profit-takers. Chorus fell 22.5c or 2.8 per cent to $7.825; Freightways declined 20c or 1.9 per cent to $10.30; Infratil shed 16c or 2.14 per cent to $7.32; Seeka lost 7c to $4.80; and electronics manufacturer Rakon was down 8c or 10.39 per cent to 69c.
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Fisher and Paykel Healthcare fell 45c to $32.10; a2 Milk slipped 26c or 2.23 per cent to $11.41; Mainfreight was down 22c to $68.50; SkyCity Entertainment declined 6c or 1.89 per cent to $3.12; and online travel provider Serko decreased 15c or 2.54 per cent to $5.75.
Medical products company Ebos Group went against the flow, rising 60c or 2.09 per cent to $29.30. Sullivan said Ebos is a good business and healthcare is still in demand. The stock has been re-rated after trending sideways and then breaking out from $26 a share and heading for $29.
Another unassuming but established company Skellerup Holdings headed steadily for $4 after gaining 2c to $3.82. Tourism Holdings, hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, had a spurt by climbing 3c to $2.50.
Summerset Group Holdings surprisingly fell 8c to $12.56 after reporting record quarter sales for the three months ending December. The group completed 176 new unit sales and 120 resales, and it has pre-sold 93 per cent of Napier Te Awa's villas to be delivered in the present quarter. Fellow retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare also joined the decliners, falling 10c to $15.50.
After providing a half-year earnings upgrade on Friday, The Warehouse Group gained more ground, rising 18c or 6.43 per cent to $2.98. Cervical screening firm TruScreen was the day's biggest mover, rising 2.6c or 17.33 per cent to 17.6c.