Yield stocksdo well but A2 Milk continues its fall

NZ shares were mixed in holiday trading with yield stocks such as Spark New Zealand and Chorus attracting buyers, while A2 Milk Co was dragged lower by a looming boardroom stoush at ASX-listed rival Bellamy's Australia.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index edged up 1.3 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 6975.6. Within the index, 24 stocks fell, 18 rose and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $85.7 million.

"It's just really slow holiday trading at the moment, [Wednesday] we saw some quite good buying in some of the blue chips but they probably weakened off a bit [yesterday]," said Peter McIntyre, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners.

"We've seen a bit of reversal in interest rates, we've seen swap rates give back some of the gains they made towards the later part of 2016, and we've seen some interest-rate sensitive stocks go higher on the back of that, namely Spark, Chorus, Contact, Mercury have been the main ones."


Spark rose 2.9 per cent to $3.60, Mercury NZ gained 2 per cent to $5.26, Chorus rose 1.7 per cent to $4.105 and Contact Energy gained 1.5 per cent to $4.74.

Retirement village operator Arvida Group, which joined the benchmark index on December 16, was the best performer, up 3.1 per cent to $1.34.

Scales Corp was the worst performer, down 2.9 per cent, or 10 cents, to $3.37, after giving up rights to an 8-cent interim dividend.

A2 Milk fell 1.4 per cent to $2.09. The share price began dropping in December after Australian competitor Bellamy's was placed in a trading halt, which has been extended until January 13. The shares began recovering when A2 gave an upbeat pre-Christmas market update, but resumed their downward track after news that Singapore-based Black Prince Private Foundation, which holds 14.5 per cent of Bellamy's, has requisitioned an extraordinary general meeting of Bellamy's shareholders to remove four independent directors and replace them with four of its nominees.

"Until there's further news flow, I think a lot of investors may want to de-risk themselves from that sector or industry," McIntyre said.

"Their recent share price weakness is a bit of an overreaction really, there's a lot of other stuff happening in Bellamy's that A2's not a party to. I suspect while this trading halt's in play, it's going to drift a bit."

Fonterra Shareholders Fund dipped 0.3 per cent to $6.03. Dairy product prices fell at the GlobalDairyTrade auction this week as whole milk powder prices unexpectedly sank amid increased volume on offer.

"Obviously the weaker GlobalDairyTrade is actually beneficial to the Fonterra units as one of their major input costs, the price of milk, holding steady benefits the value-add portion of their business," McIntyre said. "It's another stock that's had a pretty impressive six months, up over 11 per cent in that time."

NZX fell 2.9 per cent to $1.02, Port of Tauranga declined 2.3 per cent to $3.86, and Fletcher Building dropped 1.9 per cent to $10.60.

Outside the benchmark index, Hellaby Holdings was unchanged at $3.52. ASX-listed auto-parts company Bapcor has built a 48.7 per cent stake in Hellaby, creeping closer to winning control of its target with its $3.60 offer.

IkeGPS was unchanged at 39c. Hong Kong investor Scobie Ward has emerged as a substantial shareholder in the laser measurement device maker.