New Zealand shares ended higher today as positive economic data cheered investors and bargain hunters turned to stocks like Metro Performance Glass.

SkyCity Entertainment Group, however, fell after posting weaker third-quarter sales and A2 Milk lost ground as investors took profits.

The S&P/NZX 50 index gained 24 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 7378.58. Within the index, 26 stocks gained, 14 fell and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $197 million.

Forsyth Barr broker David Price said the market has been "relatively quiet", given each of the past three weeks has been shortened by holidays. The New Zealand bourse continues to garner investor interest on the back of solid economic data.

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Stats NZ reported today that merchandise exports rose to their highest monthly level in two years in March as the value of dairy exports to China jumped by two-thirds.

The ANZ Business Outlook survey showed business confidence stayed upbeat in April as firms expect to see more activity on their own books and generate bigger profits.

MetroGlass led the index higher, adding 3 per cent to $1.38. Price said the stock has been hit by a "fairly bad savaging of late" with sales of a few large parcels going through.

"Now that stock has cleared, it's had a little bounce," he said.

Fletcher Building added 0.8 per cent to $8.55. Investors may also have been cheered by news the Government is planning to up its infrastructure spend. The index was also helped by a 2.1 per cent gain in Auckland International Airport to $6.90, as investors remain upbeat about strong tourism and migration.

In the other direction, A2 Milk shed 4.3 per cent to $3.38 on some profit- taking.

Metlifecare added 0.2 per cent to $5.81 after the company bought a 2.4ha site in Auckland's Botany Downs suburb that it plans to spend $140 million developing into a 160-unit retirement village.BusinessDesk