New Zealand shares edged lower as investors prepare for earnings season to kick into life, with the outlook for dividends a key feature after the Reserve Bank's surprisingly steep rate cut this week.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index decreased by 1.09 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 10,873.21. Within the index, 24 stocks fell, 20 rose, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $114.2 million, with just five companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares.
The benchmark index went through a volatile week as a sell-off on trade tensions between the US and China spooked global markets, only to be reversed on Wednesday when the Reserve bank unexpectedly cut the official cash rate 50 basis points to a record low 1 per cent. New Zealand's relatively high dividend yield has made it an attractive investment destination, and a weaker currency only added to the lustre by making local stocks cheaper for foreign buyers.
"The rate cut has reinforced the focus back on yield. As long as companies don't make any murmurings about adjusting their payouts, things will be pretty good," said Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets.
Contact Energy kicks off the reporting season proper when it announces its annual result on Monday. It rose 2.1 per cent to $8.30 on a volume of 1.4 million shares, more than its 90-day average of 1 million. The stock is trading at a dividend yield of 4.4 per cent, and Smith said investors will be watching capital spending intentions. Meridian Energy, which is trading at a yield of 3 per cent, rose 2.5 per cent to $5 on a volume of 1.3 million.
The demand for yield wasn't universal, with the likes of Port of Tauranga down 2.1 per cent at $6.02, Genesis Energy falling 1.7 per cent to $3.45, Vector declining 1.6 per cent to $3.80, and Argosy Property decreasing 1 per cent to $1.46.
Vital Healthcare Property Trust was one of the early companies to report this week, posting a decline in annual profit due largely to higher management fees and increased finance costs. It fell 0.4 per cent to $9.60 today.
Sky Network Television led the market lower, down 3.2 per cent at $1.21 on a volume of 338,000, almost half its 611,000 average. A2 Milk declined 1.1 per cent to $15.95 on a volume of 1.1 million shares, more than its 719,000 average.
SkyCity Entertainment Group fell 1.3 per cent to $3.91 after launching its online casino as it attempts to compete with overseas rivals. It also settled the sale of the long-term concession on its Auckland car parks for $220m.
Smith said SkyCity's online foray may be an attempt to ratchet up pressure on the Department of Internal Affairs, which is considering whether to introduce a licensing regime for overseas and domestic online gambling operators.
Auckland International Airport decreased 0.1 per cent to $9.80 after government figures showed a growing number of Australian and American tourists offset a decline in Asian visitors in June. Air New Zealand was down 0.9 per cent at $2.73.
Kathmandu Holdings rose for a second day, up 2.9 per cent at $2.51. The stock jumped 16 per cent yesterday after the retailer said its annual profit rose as much as 13 per cent, with accelerating sales in Australia and a good contribution from its North American footwear business. It posted the day's biggest gain.
Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock on a volume of 2.6 million shares, down on its 3.1 million average. It decreased 0.2 per cent to $4.13. Summerset Group, which reports earnings on Tuesday, declined 0.2 per cent to $5.84.
Outside the benchmark index, Rakon dropped 7.7 per cent to 30 cents after holding its annual meeting today where shareholders were told upcoming opportunities weren't likely to boost returns in the current financial year.
Hallenstein Glasson Holdings was unchanged at $5.30 after saying it sold a property in Wellington's CBD and will register a gain of $1.1m.
Infratil's perpetual infrastructure bonds, which pay annual interest of 3.55 per cent, were the most traded debt security with a volume of 283,000. The notes closed at 78.8 cents per $1 face value, up 2.5 cents. Infratil shares rose 1.7 per cent to $4.93, a dividend yield of 3.6 per cent.
ASB Bank also said it is considering selling up to $100m of unsecured, unsubordinated five-year notes, with the ability to accept unlimited oversubscriptions. The offer details are expected to be released on Monday. The New Zealand five-year swap rate closed at 0.9785 per cent.