The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 30.4 per cent in 2019 as low interest rates and a relatively robust economy encouraged investors to pursue returns in equity markets.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was the star performer on the benchmark index this year, up 70.8 per cent at $22.20. The breathing respirator maker raised its earnings guidance in October and has benefitted from ending a protracted patent dispute with rival ResMed earlier this year.

Restaurant Brands New Zealand was another top performer this year, up 67.1 per cent at $13.95. The fastfood operator started rolling out Taco Bell stores across Australasia this year and this month announced a foray into California with a US$73 million acquisition. Mexico's Finaccess Capital bought a controlling stake in March, paying $9.45 a share.

Other top performing stocks this year, include Port of Tauranga, up 60 per cent, and Arvida Group and Ryman Healthcare both up about 52 per cent.

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Meridian, Goodman Property Trust, Infratil and Summerset Group and Mercury NZ also had a strong year, all up more than 35 per cent.

Sky Network Television fell 2.7 per cent to 71 cents in half-day trading today, rounding out a horror year for the pay-TV operator with a 61.6 per cent decline.

Under new leadership Sky TV embarked on a new strategy centred around retaining premium sports rights and streaming services. It bought the RugbyPass platform, agreed to buy Spark's Lightbox offering and brought New Zealand Rugby on as a shareholder in its bid to keep rugby broadcasting rights.

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Tourism Holdings finished the year down 32.33 per cent, while Gentrack Group finished the year down 25.6 per cent. Other worst performing stocks of the year include NZ Refining, down 20 per cent, Z Energy and Fonterra.

Air New Zealand's stock finished the year down 5.5 per cent, with Vista Group and Westpac were down 4 per cent. Synlait Milk finished the year down 1.2 per cent.

Half-day trading today

The benchmark index fell 64.55 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 11,491.90 in shortened trading today. Within the index, 27 stock fell, 18 rose, and five were unchanged. Turnover was $56.9 million.

The half-day session to end the year was marked by retirement village operators and aged care providers giving up some of their recent gains. The sector has been buoyed by the $1.5 billion takeover offer for Metlifecare, with some investors shifting to rival stocks now rather than waiting until everyone gets their money.

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NZX posted the biggest gain today, up 1.5 per cent at $1.36 on a volume of 28,000 shares, less than its 189,000 average. It rose 34.7 per cent this year.

Port of Tauranga was up 1.4 per cent at $7.95, taking its annual gain to 60 per cent and making it the third-best performer on the benchmark index.

Metlifecare increased 0.3 per cent to $6.83, still shy of the $7 offer price, and was the most traded stock with 2.1 million shares changing hands this year. Its 90-day average is 275,000.

Blis Technologies posted the biggest gain in the wider market, up 266.7 per cent this year at 6.6 cents. It was up 1.5 per cent today. The probiotic maker reported a maiden profit this year having listed in 2001.

Smartpay was the second-best performer in the wider market, up 211.1 per cent at 56 cents. The payment systems firm soared in November when it announced the sale of its New Zealand business and assets for $70 million, more than its market capitalisation at the time.

Pacific Edge pipped Sky TV as the worst performer in the broader market, down 62.3 per cent at 12 cents. It was down 1.6 per cent today. The bladder cancer test maker has again gone back to shareholders for more capital as it tries to gain traction in the US market.

Ryman Healthcare led the market lower, down 5.1 per cent at $16.33 with 250,000 shares traded, almost half its 513,000 average. The country's biggest listed retirement village operator gained 52.1 per cent this year.

Arvida Group fell 1.5 per cent to $1.92, ending the year up 52.9 per cent, while Oceania Healthcare was down 2.2 per cent at $1.32, for an annual gain of 23.4 per cent. Summerset Group fell 1.7 per cent to $8.90, ending the year up 39.7 per cent.

Spark New Zealand fell 0.4 per cent to $4.33 with 1.1 million shares traded, and Auckland International Airport was down 0.6 per cent at $8.75 on a volume of 1 million. Spark rose 5.1 per cent in 2019 and Auckland Airport gained 21.9 per cent.

The local market has been one of the stronger across Asia-Pacific, trailing China's Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index which was up 35.6 per cent year-to-date when the New Zealand market closed. The S&P 500 Index in the US, which still has a day of trading left, was up 28.4 per cent so far this year, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 19 per cent.

- additional reporting NZ Herald.