New Zealand shares rose as equity investors took heart from comments by Chinese President Xi Jinping that he favoured an open economy and lower tariffs. Pushpay Holdings, Ryman Healthcare, Air New Zealand, Trade Me and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group gained.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 15.64 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 8,469.77. Within the index, 24 stocks rose, 15 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was a lower-than-average $91.5 million.

Equity benchmarks across Asia and US stock futures rose after Xi delivered a speech to the Chinese Boao Forum for Asia, in which he said China would raise the foreign ownership limit for Chinese automakers and cut tariffs on imported products. The comments eased fears about China's trade spat with the US. Japan's Topix rose 0.2 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 0.7 per cent in afternoon trading.

Pushpay, which markets a payment app to religious organisations, rose 2.4 per cent to $4.27. The shares have gained 137 per cent in the past 12 months. In January, Pushpay said it would bring forward its US listing plans and would seek a listing before the end of this year, after reaching a target of US$100m ($136m) in annualised committed monthly revenue.


Ryman rose 1.9 per cent to $10.80 and Contact gained 1.7 per cent to $5.30. Heartland Bank rose 1.2 per cent to $1.72 and Mainfreight gained $24.60. Air New Zealand rose 1 per cent to $3.385.

"Our market has continually improved through the day as have Asian markets following the conciliatory tone from President Xi and the fact he is pro-free trade," said Peter McIntyre, an adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "Markets have taken that on board."

Investors are also upbeat about the pending US reporting season, with forecast earnings-per-share growth of about 7 per cent, he said. Volumes traded on the NZX, though, have been low, although institutional investors look to have loaded up on Fletcher Building, buying shares that have shed a quarter of their value in the past 12 months, a sign that it may offer relative value after the slide.

Fletcher was unchanged at $6.01, having recovered from a nine-year low of about $5.77, plumbed last week. Some $15m of shares changed hands, making it the most heavily traded stock by value on the market today.

ANZ Bank rose 1.1 per cent to $28.62 and Westpac Banking Corp gained 0.8 per cent to $31.05, which McIntyre said reflected gains in bank stocks on the ASX today.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was the biggest decliner, falling 1.9 per cent to $13.37, having reached a five-week high yesterday.

NZX was unchanged at $1.08 after the market operator released a paper for feedback that included proposals to increase liquidity and transparency in the market. The local bourse has one of the highest levels of off-market trading compared to its peers.

The changes would lead to "more effective markets, hopefully," McIntyre said.


Outside the benchmark index, IkeGPS rose 7.8 per cent to 48.5 cents after the unprofitable laser measurement toolmaker said it expects sales and margin growth in 2019.