New Zealand shares rose as investors took heart from the Reserve Bank indicating the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the domestic economy and corporate earnings would be short-lived.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 63.70 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 11,898.24. Within the index, 24 stocks rose, 21 fell and five were unchanged. Turnover was $193.8 million.

The Reserve Bank kept the official cash rate at 1 per cent today, as expected, but changed its forecasts to remove the chance of future cuts with governor Adrian Orr talking down the long-term impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the domestic economy.

That followed an upbeat lead from Wall Street after China's foremost medical adviser said the epidemic would likely peak this month and may be over by April.


Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said equity investors were under-pricing the risk from coronavirus. In contrast, investors in commodities took a more pessimistic outlook on the global economy, he said.

"Oil prices are down 16-17 per cent and gold is holding multi-year highs, so those markets are expressing real concerns, but share investors seem to blithely going along," McCarthy said.

Still, McCarthy said the best performers on New Zealand's benchmark index had defensive characteristics, such as utilities and property companies. Those companies typically pay reliable dividends are often deemed attractive when interest rates are low.

The local market was led higher by retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare - up 2.9 per cent at $16.87 - and electricity generator-retailer Meridian Energy, which rose 2.9 per cent to $5.76 on a volume of 3 million shares.

Among other utilities to gain, Mercury Energy was up 2.1 per cent at $5.44, Contact Energy rose 1.3 per cent to $7.57 and Genesis Energy increased 0.2 per cent to $3.20.

Growth stock Pushpay Holdings rose 2.8 per cent to $4.70.

Tourism Holdings gained 1.1 per cent to $2.94 after research group Jarden upgraded its rating to 'outperfom', saying the current share price was a compelling entry point for a business with a strong competitive position and exposure to a tourism industry which has seen strong growth. The rental RV operator has been under pressure as investors fretted about the impact the coronavirus outbreak would have on domestic tourism.

A2 Milk group rose 1.6 per cent to $15.8, bolstered by the resurgence in global optimism.


Stock market operator NZX fell 0.7 per cent to $1.38. McCarthy said that was at odds with the strong performance of the local market.

"One of the reason traders like to look at the performance of exchange shares themselves is they are essentially a prediction of the share outlook," he said.

"More people get involved in share markets when they rise, so the fact that stock was down today suggests there may be a polarisation of investors. Some are keen to get in, but some are very nervous."

Sky Network Television shares fell 4.8 per cent to a record low 60 cents after the pay-TV operator reported a 78 per cent slide in first-half profit. The company is overhauling its operations to focus on streaming services in an increasingly competitive environment.

Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets, said the company was heading in right direction, but that it appeared as though investors needed more evidence before they started backing it again.

"You can understand them being at 60 cents if they weren't strategically repositioning and if they didn't have streaming. At some point – and it's hard to see when – investors will wake up and see a they're evolving with the market and there's a value proposition there."