New Zealand shares joined a rally across Asia, as investors have one eye on whether the Federal Reserve will signal lower US interest rates in what would be a further boon for equity markets. Vista Group International led the market higher.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 21.07 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 10,191.33. Within the index, 25 stocks gained, 16 fell, and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $125.5 million.
Stocks across Asia were generally stronger, with Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index up 0.5 per cent in late trading and Singapore's Straits Times Index rising 0.8 per cent. The Federal Open Market Committee will review US rates this week, and investors are hoping for a steer on whether the world's biggest central bank will cut its benchmark interest rate.
"The market's drifting sideways a little bit, waiting for the outcome of the FOMC meeting," said Craigs Investment Partners investment advisor Peter McIntyre.
"Market pricing is that rates are going to go lower - the market's not looking for an immediate rate cut, but is looking for confirmation that over the coming six months the Fed is going to cut rates, which is supportive for equities."
Tech stock Vista, an export firm which develops cinema analytics software, led the market higher. It was up 4.6 per cent at a record close of $6.12 on 93,000 shares, less than its 90-day average of 391,000.
Low rates have underpinned New Zealand's benchmark stock index and its large contingent of infrastructure companies, utilities, and property stocks which typically pay reliable dividends.
Infrastructure investor Infratil is among those firms, and closed at a record $4.59, up 2.9 per cent, on a volume of 1.2 million shares. That was almost twice its 90-day average. The company allotted 45.5 million shares issued under the retail component of its $400m capital raising.
McIntyre said the shares were issued at $4 each, meaning those investors who took up their entitlements are already in the money.
Meridian Energy rose 2 per cent to $4.50 on a volume of 2 million shares, Ryman Healthcare advanced 1.9 per cent to $11.58, Contact Energy increased 1.3 per cent to $7.62 and Chorus was up 1.3 per cent at $5.85.
Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock on a volume of 3.3 million shares, down on its usual volume of about 5.4 million. It rose 1.6 per cent to $3.91 after saying it will offer free access to streaming coverage of the Rugby World Cup for customers who sign up to certain mobile or broadband contracts.
Sky Network Television, which has had a strong grip on rugby broadcast rights for the past two decades, rose 1.7 per cent to $1.20.
Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, SkyCity Entertainment Group was unchanged at $3.78, Z Energy rose 0.3 per cent to $6.10, Oceania Healthcare decreased 1 per cent to $1.04, Auckland International Airport fell 0.7 per cent to $8.77 and Kiwi Property Group was unchanged at $1.57.
A2 Milk Co posted the day's biggest decline, down 2.7 per cent at $14.24 on a volume of 804,00 shares, in line with its 90-day average.
McIntyre said the benchmark held up well given A2's large weighting on the index. But he said the stock's been pushed around in the past month on fears that China's desire for more locally produced formula may weigh on the company over the next three-to-four years.
"The underlying story there hasn't gone away, it's just being buffeted by those factors," he said.
Synlait Milk, which supplies A2, rose 1 per cent to $10.10. Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units declined 0.3 per cent to $3.91.
NZX was unchanged at $1.09 ahead of tomorrow's Cannasouth listing. The pre-revenue medicinal cannabis firm is the first new listing in more than two years.
Vector's 2025 bonds, which pay annual interest of 3.45 per cent, were the most traded debt security on a volume of 730,000. The notes closed at an unchanged yield of 3 per cent.