New Zealand shares rose to a record close in relatively light trading through most of the day as the holiday season starts to take hold.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 68.72 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 11,329.56. Within the index, 31 stocks rose, 15 fell and four were unchanged. Turnover was $125.6 million.

Just two stocks had traded on volumes of more than a million shares before the matching period at the end of the session; that grew to seven at the end of the day.

Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock on a volume of 2.9 million shares, just shy of its 90-day average of 3 million. It rose 1.8 per cent to $4.32.


Kiwi Property Group increased 1.6 per cent to $1.555 with 2.5 million shares changing hands, more than its 1.8 million average.

Companies paying reliable dividends, such as property stocks and utilities, have enjoyed a strong run this year as low global interest rates make their dividend yield more attractive.

A2 Milk was up 0.5 per cent at $15.28 on a volume of 702,000 shares.

"It's that time of year when volumes do tend to dwindle and that's very much the case today," said Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management.

Among companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Auckland International Airport dipped 0.6 per cent to $8.76, Meridian Energy was down 1.2 per cent at $4.80 and Air New Zealand rose 0.7 per cent to $2.90.

The local market has been on a tear this year, up 28.5 in what would its best performance since the gross index was adopted in 2003. The previous best was a 24 per cent gain in 2012, and its last negative year was in 2011.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is poised to top the index this year, as today's 2.1 per cent increase to $22.26 took its year-to-date gain to 67.7 per cent. It's currently the country's biggest listed company with a market value of $12.56 billion.

The main news of the day was an executive shuffle, where Trustpower chief executive Vince Hawksworth announced his departure to take the reins at Mercury NZ. Trustpower decreased 0.3 per cent to $7.23 and Mercury rose 0.9 per cent to $4.84 with 1.2 million shares changing hands.


"Mercury's obviously a larger company and a bigger job so I don't think that raises too many eyebrows and is completely understandable," Goodson said.

Heartland Group Holdings led the market higher, up 3.5 per cent at $1.79 with 205,000 shares traded, down on its 262,000 average.

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.7 per cent to $26.19. Its New Zealand subsidiary today confirmed Antonia Watson as chief executive, a position she'd been acting in since May.

NZX rose 2.3 per cent to $1.32 on a volume of 94,000, about half its 198,000 average. The stock market operator said the connectivity issue that closed trading early on Tuesday was due to technical changes at its provider, Spark. The telco apologised for the disruption caused to the market.

Fletcher Building increased 0.4 per cent to $5.32 with 1.1 million shares traded. The building company today said it had committed to reducing direct and indirect emissions by 30 per cent over the next decade. Chief executive Ross Taylor said the company's emissions primarily come from cement manufacturing and electricity use in Australia.

Synlait Milk posted the day's biggest decline, down 2.8 per cent at $8.65, on a volume of 180,000 shares, twice its 86,000 average. The milk processor today listed $180m of 2024 bonds, paying annual interest of 3.83 per cent. The notes closed at a yield of 3.8 per cent on a volume of 619,000.

Sky Network Television dropped 2.7 per cent to 72 cents, while Gentrack was down 2.1 per cent at $3.70.

Outside the benchmark index, Cannasouth rose 3.3 per cent to 62 cents. The government today released regulations setting out the quality and licensing requirements for manufacturing and distributing medicinal cannabis. The regulations take effect in April.