New Zealand shares rose, led by Contact Energy and Meridian Energy as heightened uncertainty in global markets bolsters the attraction of defensive stocks offering stable dividends.

The S&P/NZX 50 index increased 10.92 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 8,670.94. Within the index, 19 gained, 26 fell, and five were unchanged. Turnover was $124.9 million.

Asian stock markets were mixed with Hong Kong's Hang Seng down 0.1 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index gaining 0.2 per cent in afternoon trading as investors weigh up the impact of heightened trade tensions between the US and China and Britain's delayed Brexit vote in the face of widespread opposition.

Rickey Ward, NZ equity manager at JBWere, said that environment of uncertainty makes New Zealand's share market relatively attractive given the prevalence of defensive stocks such as the generator-retail power companies, property investors, and utilities.

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"People have said they want to get out of growth and go defensive again and lo and behold, the New Zealand market is pretty attractive and things are looking pretty good again," he said.

"If we look at the market today and the volumes traded, they are in those defensive markets - the property sector, the generators the Spark's of this world, the utliity companies."

Contact led the market higher, up 3 per cent at $5.87 on a slightly bigger than usual volume of 981,000. Meridian gained 2.2 per cent to $3.29 on 2.6 million shares, about twice its average volume, and Genesis Energy increased 0.8 per cent to $2.53 on a volume of 1.2 million. Goodman Property Trust rose 0.3 per cent to $1.57 on 1.3 million shares.

Spark New Zealand was up 0.1 per cent at $4.275 on a volume of 3.4 million, the busiest stock on the index. SkyCity Entertainment Group fell 1.7 per cent to $3.45 on a volume of 2.8 million, compared to its 90-day average of 704,000.

Of other companies trading on volumes of more than 1 million, Auckland International Airport fell 2 per cent to $6.96 and Z Energy decreased 0.2 per cent to $5.67.

Restaurant Brands New Zealand rose 2.5 per cent to $8.50 in slightly busier activity of 309,000. The fast food operator's board today said they will back a partial takeover bid from Mexico's Finaccess Capital at $9.45 for 75 three quarters of the company. An independent valuation by Grant Samuel put a price of $8.15-$8.92 a share.

Scales Corp fell 2.5 per cent to $4.24 on twice its average trading volume at 122,000.

Arvida Group decreased 1.5 per cent, or 2 cents, to $1.28 after shedding rights to a 1.3 cents per share dividend.

Vital Healthcare Property Trust fell 1.4 per cent to $2.05. The real estate investor's manager has hired a firm to lobby for investor votes ahead of the December 20 annual meeting, where rebel shareholders are seeking to change the terms of the management contract and install a director to its board.

Outside the benchmark index, PGG Wrightson fell 3.8 per cent to a 23-month low 51 cents. Overnight, its cornerstone shareholder Agria settled with the US Securities and Exchange Commission over claims of fraudulent accounting, and executive chair Alan Lai, who chaired Wrightson, also reached a settlement over market manipulation claims.

NZAX-listed BurgerFuel Worldwide was unchanged at 68 cents after saying it's hired KPMG to undertake a strategic review of the business. The burger franchisor has found global expansion risker and more expensive since losing its partner, Franchise Brands.