New Zealand shares were led higher by stronger blue-chip stocks including Meridian Energy and Port of Tauranga in subdued trading through the first full week after the Christmas and New Year holiday.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 14.02 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 11,551.70. Within the index, 19 stocks rose, 23 fell, and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $102.5 million, with just five stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares.

Markets across Asia were broadly stronger as investors remained optimistic that tensions between the US and Iran won't escalate.

Upcoming US employment figures and the signing of an interim trade agreement between the US and China are now the focus for investors.


Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management, said some local heavyweight stocks had drifted off as international investors sold down in recent days.

"They've come off their earlier highs, but it's easy to over-read price movements at this time of year because the market's just so thin," he said.

Meridian led the market, up 2.7 per cent at $5.03 on a volume of a million shares, less than its 90-day average of 1.9 million.

Port of Tauranga rose 2.6 per cent with just 47,000 shares traded. NZX rose to a six-and-a-half year high at $1.37, up 2.2 per cent.

The stock market operator's December metrics yesterday showed more activity occurred on the formal market in 2019 than in the prior year.

While it's struggled to attract new listings, local nanotech firm Izon Science today said it plans to list on the NZX this year. Summerset Group declined 0.3 per cent to $8.67 after it reported record quarterly sales in December.

The retirement village operator's new sales were buoyed by demand for units at three recently opened villages.

Goodson said the sales figures were decent, but investors were cautious about the tentative signs of recovery in the Auckland property market.


Metlifecare, which is under a takeover offer at $7 a share, was unchanged at $6.87.Oceania Healthcare increased 1.6 per cent to $1.31, Ryman Healthcare slipped 0.3 percent to $16.30, and Arvida Group declined 0.5 per cent to $1.84 on a volume of 1.4 million shares, more than three times its 462,000 average.

Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock on a volume of 2.1m shares, below its 2.4m average.

The shares fell 0.7 percent to $4.52. Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Contact Energy rose 1.1 per cent to $7.21 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was unchanged at $21.50.

Sky Network Television posted the day's biggest decline, down 2.7 per cent at 71 cents on a volume of just 53,000 shares, well south of its 1 million average. Chorus fell 2.5 per cent to $6.34 and Vista Group International was down 2.2 per cent at $3.50.