New Zealand shares followed global markets lower as the spread of coronavirus outside China continued, and the Ministry of Health confirmed a case in New Zealand late on Friday.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 176.01 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 11,261.16. Within the index, 42 stocks fell, 7 gained, and one was unchanged. Turnover was $320.9 million.

Infections around the world surpassed those in mainland China and today New Zealand's Ministry of Health said a person in their 60s was the country's first case of Covid-19. The government said the chances of community outbreak remain low.

Risk aversion rippled through most markets. Global equities fell between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent and bond yields also tumbled.


The S&P 500 is now down almost 10 per cent from its mid-Feb high, and on track for its worst week since the global financial crisis. In contrast, the Shanghai Composite index has been recovering and is now within just 2.5 per cent of its pre-slump level.

Matt Goodson, a director at Salt Funds, said that coronavirus case numbers were topping out in China, even as they grew elsewhere. This potentially led to stabilisation in the Chinese markets and more chaos elsewhere.

"If you look back to SARS, when the case numbers topped out on a log scale that's where the market bottomed out. That is happening in China but not elsewhere."

Global markets have been very extended with high valuations, but the virus has knocked them "back down to earth on no uncertain terms," Goodson said.

Locally, domestic courier company Freightways led the market lower, down 5.8 per cent to $7.25 on a light volume of 101,000 shares.

The company recently said it had not experienced any impact from the global virus outbreak, but Goodson warned it was not always the most exposed stocks that moved the most, as selloffs were often more influenced by liquidity on the market.

Skellerup Holdings, an exporter with manufacturing operations in China and exposure to the US market, fell 5.7 per cent to $1.99. Among other exporters, Synlait Milk dropped 2.4 per cent at $6, and Fonterra Shareholders' Fund declined 1.3 per cent to $3.91. Delegat decreased 5.2 per cent to $10.5.

Air New Zealand fell 4.2 per cent to $2.27 after yesterday reporting strong domestic demand but weakening international demand due to the travel restrictions. Auckland International Airport fell 2 per cent to $7.87 on a well above average volume of 3.7 million shares.


Tourism Holdings fell 0.8 per cent to $2.49. The campervan and tourism attractions company today reported a half-year net profit of $13.1m, down 25 per cent. However it reiterated its expectation of full-year profit around $24m, a figure it forecast earlier this month, downgrading from $27.9m.

Port of Tauranga, which today trimmed its full-year profit forecast by $2m on the back of reduced export log volumes due to coronavirus, fell 2 per cent to $6.55.

The country's largest port now expects full-year earnings of $94m to $99m.

"The port is starting to see the impacts of a trade slow down, particularly in the log sector. It was a modest downgrade to full-year guidance, but if current conditions continue then clearly more would be required," Goodson said.

Power companies continued to lose support, as the decision of whether Rio Tinto would close the aluminium smelter still looms.

Contact Energy fell 2.2 per cent to $6.7 on a volume of 1.6 million shares, Meridian Energy fell 1.7 per cent to $4.62 on a volume of 4 million shares and Genesis Energy fell 0.8 per cent to $3.055 on a lighter volume of 784,000 shares.

Goodson said looking ahead to next week, the key question would be whether central banks would cut interest rates.