New Zealand shares rose as first-half earnings reports from Fletcher Building and Spark New Zealand brought confidence to investors.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 45.19 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 11,981.03. Within the index, 19 stocks gained, 28 fell, and three were unchanged. Turnover was $133.4 million.
Fletcher led the market higher, rising 4.4 per cent to $5.41 on a bigger volume than usual of 4.2 million shares. It reported a first-half profit of $82m, down from $89m a year earlier, due largely to costs from its Australian restructuring. It lifted its interim dividend to 11 cents per share form 8 cents.
Grant Davies, an investment adviser at Hamilton Hindin Greene, said the result offered some certainty to investors after heavy selling last week.
"Fletcher had been sold off quite a bit in the lead up to the result. So, an increase in certainty of direction has helped some investors be more comfortable with where the company is at," he said.
Spark New Zealand rose 0.6 per cent to $4.78 on a volume of almost 2 million shares, after reporting a 9.2 per cent lift in first-half profit. The telecommunications company made inroads into the increasingly valuable mobile market and continued to benefit from a cost-cutting drive.
Davies said Spark's was slightly ahead of expectations, which caused the modest rise, but was not such a surprise. He pointed to the stock's steady gain of 17.9 per cent over the past 12 months.
"Spark's consistent results over time are being rewarded by the market. The stock - while not at all-time highs – is tracking along quite nicely," he said.
Overnight, dairy prices fell for the second straight time at the latest Global Dairy Trade auction amid concern about the spreading coronavirus covid-19. Economists warned that could lead lower forecasts for Fonterra Cooperative Group's farmgate payout.
Dairy stocks had a mixed reaction. Fonterra Shareholders Fund eased 0.3 per cent to $3.94, while A2 Milk rose 0.9 per cent to $16.43 and Synlait Milk advanced 3.3 per cent to $6.77.
Davies said falling dairy prices were not always a negative for dairy stocks because the milk price was a cost of production.
The fallout from the covid-19 outbreak continued to weigh on the local market. Air New Zealand yesterday said it would cut the number of flights to Shanghai as customer demand has weakened due to the outbreak. The airline's shares fell 2.5 per cent to $2.71 on a volume of 1.4 million shares and Auckland International Airport decreased 0.8 per cent to $8.35.
Ryman Healthcare fell 2.6 per cent to $2.71, posting the biggest decline on the day.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare continued to hit new records, rising 2 per cent to $25.11 and Heartland Group Holdings crept up 0.5 per cent to $1.90 – up 2 per cent since reporting its first-half result yesterday.
Among other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Metlifecare fell 0.1 per cent to $6.92, Meridian Energy rose 1.1 per cent to $5.68, Kiwi Property Group declined 0.3 per cent to $1.555 and Contact Energy gained 0.5 per cent to $7.66.