New Zealand shares fell, led by blue-chip stocks such as Meridian Energy and A2 Milk Co, as weaker than expected Chinese growth weighed on Asian markets.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index dropped 74.74 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 11,067.12. Within the index, 25 stocks fell, 19 rose, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $137.1 million.

Stocks across Asia fell after China said gross domestic product grew at an annual 6 percent pace in the third quarter, its slowest pace in almost 30 years and falling short of economists' 6.1 per cent forecast. China's Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.6 per cent in afternoon trading, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index also fell 0.6 per cent, and Singapore's Straits Times Index declined 0.4 per cent.

Meridian, New Zealand's biggest listed company, led the local market lower, down 2.2 per cent at $5.28 on a volume of 2.9 million shares, more than its 90-day average of 1.4 million. It's been the best-performing stock on the NZX50 so far this year, up 56 per cent, with investors attracted to the reliable dividend income in a low interest rate environment.


Among other blue-chip stocks, A2 was down 2.1 per cent at $13.07, Ryman Healthcare declined 1.8 per cent to $13.30, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare decreased 1.3 per cent to $18.75 and Contact Energy slipped 1.2 per cent to $8.45 on a volume of 2.8 million shares.

SkyCity Entertainment Group edged up 0.3 per cent to $3.94 after telling shareholders that there had been a positive start to the new financial year, particularly at its Auckland gaming machines.

Matt Goodson, a managing director at Salt Funds Management, said trading appeared to be going okay for the casino operator, which he said was surprising given its past sensitivity to a slowing economy.

"Despite a plethora of signs of a weaker economy, things seem to be hanging in there well for SkyCity," he said.

Sanford was up 2.7 per cent at $7.15 after the seafood group said there had been promising trial results for its greenshell mussel breeding programme. Goodson said that wouldn't deliver any benefits tomorrow, but could be quite significant over the next five years.

Synlait Milk posted the day's biggest gain, up 2.9 per cent at $9.70 on a volume of 67,000 shares, just below its 82,000 average.

Sky Network Television was the most traded stock on a volume of 3.7 million shares, more than three times its 1.1 million average. It was unchanged at $1.07.

Goodson said investors were divided on the company, with some seeing strong upside since it secured the rugby broadcasting rights, and just as many seeing a similar downside in a changing content environment.


Spark New Zealand, which has been an aggressive competitor for sports rights, rose 1.1 per cent to $4.49 on a volume of 2.4 million shares, less than its 3.1 million average. The telco today said it would promote Stefan Knight to chief financial officer from next March, with David Chalmers to return to Melbourne.

Mercury NZ rose 0.4 per cent to $5.48 on a volume of 1 million shares, more than its 784,000 average. The electricity generator-retailer lifted earnings guidance due to rising storage at its Waikato catchment and sustained high wholesale electricity prices.

Among other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Fletcher Building fell 0.4 per cent to $4.82, and Infratil was down 0.5 per cent at $4.92.

Goodson said there was speculation Fletcher will fall out of an MSCI index and Mercury will be added in the November reweighting, which had supported Mercury's price. Contact was also a chance of being added, he said.

Kathmandu Holdings fell 1.3 per cent to $3.14 on a volume of just 92,000 shares, less than a third of its 301,000 average. Shareholders today overwhelmingly backed the $368m acquisition of Rip Curl.

Outside the benchmark index, Eroad rose 4.6 per cent to $3.17 after the fleet management technology company said third-quarter sales were strong, and that it's considering a secondary listing on the ASX.