New Zealand shares gained in shortened Christmas Eve trading, shaking off the negative lead set by Wall Street's decline on Friday night, with defensive stocks such as property investment firms and power companies among the gainers.

The S&P/NZX 50 index increased 28.32 points, or 0.3 percent, to 8,714.51. Within the index, 28 stocks gained, 15 fell, and seven were unchanged. Turnover was very light at $49.1 million.

New Zealand's market held up well in the abbreviated trading session after Wall Street was bashed by the heightened political uncertainty in the US, where a stalemate among policymakers has led to a federal government shutdown. Meanwhile, White House divisions are re-emerging with President Donald Trump forcing an early exit for Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who resigned over the president's decision to withdraw from Syria.

Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene, said the global uncertainty has meant the traditional rise in markets through Christmas and New Year isn't likely to happen this year. Global equities markets have gained into the Christmas period about 80 percent of the time since the 1940s in a phenomenon so common that it has been dubbed the 'Santa rally'.

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"It seems as if the market was firm today - obviously Wall Street had a big fall on Friday night and we're not really following suit," he said.

The NZX50 is among the few benchmarks still up in the year-to-date, with a 3.8 percent gain.

Williamson said the correction in global markets has been reasonably orderly.

Stride Property led the market higher, up 3.2 percent at $1.92 on very light volumes. Sister company Investore Property, which Stride manages, gained 2 percent to $1.54, also on light volumes. Kiwi Property Group increased 1.9 percent to $1.37 and Argosy Propety was up 1.7 percent at $1.20.

NZX advanced 2 percent to $1. The stock market operator may lose a participant firm with First NZ Capital announcing the acquisition of OM Financial, which specialises in derivatives trading.

Meridian Energy was the most traded stock with a volume of 1.4 million. It gained 0.3 percent to $3.41, while Contact Energy increased 0.7 percent to $5.93 on a volume of 1 million. No other companies traded on volumes of more than 1 million.

Spark New Zealand rose 1 percent to $4.20 on 856,000 shares traded, well below its 90-day average of 3.2 million. Fletcher Building increased 0.4 percent to $4.90 on 708,000 shares, compared to its 1.7 million average.

Vista Group International fell 0.5 percent to $3.70 on 29,000 shares changing hands, about a tenth of average volume. The cinema analytics software developer rejoined the NZX50 today.

Westpac Banking Group fell 2 percent to $24.50, the biggest decline on the benchmark index today.

Outside the NZX50, NZME was unchanged at 51 cents after hiring Heartland Group chief financial officer David Mackrell as its new CFO. Heartland was unchanged at $1.36.

PGG Wrightson was unchanged at 47 cents after saying a minority shareholder has exercised its minority buy-out rights after voting against the resolution to sell its seeds business to Denmark's DLF Seeds.

Veritas Investments was unchanged at 10 cents after chair Tim Cook announced his plans to resign from the board from Jan. 25. Veritas last week agreed to spend $2.7 million buying the Citizen Park gastro pub in Auckland's Kingsland.

(BusinessDesk)