New Zealand shares fell as fears over the spread of the Chinese coronavirus weighed on tourism-related companies including Tourism Holdings and Air New Zealand.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 70.67 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 11,807.14. Within the index, 34 stocks fell, eight rose, and eight were unchanged.

Turnover was $37.2 million, due to holidays in Australia and Auckland. Just Air New Zealand traded on a volume of more than a million shares.

Peter McIntyre, an investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners, said the local market was very quiet due to the Auckland anniversary and Australia Day holidays.

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It had followed Wall Street's lead, where investors were unsettled by the coronavirus outbreak.

"Investors are still nervous about those travel and tourism-related stocks and are looking to trim their positions," he said.

Air New Zealand was the most traded stock with 1.1 million shares changing changes. It fell 2.4 per cent to $2.91. Tourism Holdings declined 2 per cent to $2.94 and Auckland International Airport was down 1.5 per cent at $8.75.

SkyCity Entertainment Group decreased 1 per cent to $4.03, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand was down 2.2 per cent at $2.66, and travel management app maker Serko dropped 5.2 per cent to $5.16.

McIntyre said it was still too early to determine the impact of the outbreak on Chinese consumer demand, and trading in companies exposed to that market - such as a2 Milk - was relatively light. A2 fell 1.8 per cent to $15.72, with 206,000 shares traded and fishing company Sanford was unchanged at $7.95.

The wider uncertainty also weighed on companies focused on rapid revenue growth. Vista Group International led the benchmark index lower, down 4 per cent at $3.60 and Gentrack fell 3.6 per cent to $2.16.

Pushpay Holdings dipped 0.2 per cent to $4.47. Meridian Energy posted the day's biggest gain, up 1.9 per cent at $5.32 on a volume of 622,000 shares.

Synlait Milk was unchanged at $8.90. The milk processor today hiked its forecast payout to farmers by 25 cents to $7.25 per kilogram of milk solids, the highest payment since 2013. Chief executive Leon Clement said the company expects global dairy prices to remain elevated for the time being.Fonterra Cooperative Group has forecast a $7-to-$7.60/kgMS payout.

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Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units were unchanged at $4.03.

Oceania Healthcare was the second-most traded stock on a volume of 999,000 shares. The aged care and retirement village operator reported an increase in first-half earnings on Friday, and has benefited from investor demand since Metlifecare announced it was under a takeover offer. It closed down 2c yesterday at $1.29. Metlifecare increased 0.2 per cent to $6.89, below the $7 takeover bid.

Among blue-chip stocks, Spark New Zealand decreased 0.4 per cent to $4.56, Kiwi Property Group slipped 0.6 per cent to $1.57, and Contact Energy was up 0.3 per cent at $7.50.

Outside the benchmark index, IkeGPS jumped 10.3 per cent to 96 cents. The utilities measurement specialist today reported record nine-month revenue of $7.3m at a gross margin of 72 per cent. McIntyre said Ike was one of a number of companies starting to deliver earnings growth that the stock market operator would be keen to highlight.

Among other smaller companies that are on the cusp of profitability or have already reached it, Wellington Drive Technologies decreased 0.6 per cent at 17.3 cents, Plexure Group declined 2.6 per cent to 74 cents, and Blis Technologies rose 2.9 percent to 7 cents.
BusinessDesk