New Zealand shares fell, with several companies hitting record lows, as investors grappled with the uncertainty of how long and deep the economic downturn will be as the pandemic continues to rattle financial markets.

The S&P/NZX Index dropped 340.36 points, or 3.6 per cent, to 9,114.5. Within the index, 45 stocks fell, three rose and two were unchanged. Turnover was $275.2 million.

Markets remain in upheaval as the Covid-19 outbreak worsens. Investors today returned to sell-mode as concerns set in that the stimulus package would not be enough to offset a significant recession.

Stuart Williams, head of equities at Nikko Asset Management, said the market was experiencing "logical volatility" rather than "panic selling" as investors worked through the uncertainty of the global recession.


"The world is in a pretty tricky spot, and investors are grappling with a lot of things," he said. "The market is operating in the normal way, it's just the prices are down," he said.

Global stock markets fell. Overnight the S&P 500 in New York fell 5.2 per cent and London's FTSE 100 Index dropped 4.1 per cent. Across Asia, markets also were also weaker. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 4.9 per cent, Shanghai's SSCE down 2.1 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 3.2 per cent.

That volatility seeped into currency markets as investors flocked to the greenback. The kiwi dollar sank more than 5 US cts over the past day, trading at 55.36 US cents at 5pm in Wellington.

Tourism Holdings led the local market lower, shedding 31.1 per cent to a six-year low of 91 cents. The stock is down 72.2 per cent this year.

Kathmandu Holdings fell 26.7 per cent to an all-time low of $1.10 and is down 67.1 per cent over the past three months. The retailer this week said the majority of its European stores were forced to close and that traffic in Australasian stores had also declined due to the outbreak.

A number of other stocks also fell to record lows today. SkyCity Entertainment Group fell 20.1 per cent to $1.59, the lowest in two decades, and Gentrack sank 16.7 per cent, slipping below a dollar for the first time, to close at 95 cents.

Z Energy fell 11.7 per cent to $3.01 with 1.5 million shares traded.

Williams said Z Energy's sell-off was "perplexing", although he noted fuel consumption does fall during a recession.


"If you look across however deep this valley that we are in is, then that is a great company with an enduring proposition that presents good value," he said.

Aged-care stocks continued to fall.

Summerset Holdings dropped 11.4 per cent to $4.43, Oceania Healthcare declined 8.3 per cent to 55 cents and is off 56.8 per cent this year, Metlifecare decreased 6.7 per cent to $5.15, and Arvida Group fell 5.3 per cent to $1.08.

Spark New Zealand fell 5.6 per cent to $3.91 with 4.2 million shares traded. Williams said the telco had a strong business model and was "arguably a beneficiary of more people working remotely.

"There are a lot of great listed business that appear to be on sale right now," he said.

Property firms declined across the board. Argosy Property fell 11.6 per cent to 95 cents, Kiwi Property Group fell 10.9 per cent to 98 cents and Property for Industry fell 10.6 per cent to $1.85. Vital Healthcare Property Trust dropped 7 per cent to $2.045

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose 7 per cent to $27.45, the biggest gain on the day.

Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units rose 4.2 per cent to $3.94 and Vista Group International rose 5 per cent to $1.25.

Synlait Milk fell 4.8 per cent to $4.40 after it reported a 30 per cent decline in first half profit, but retained its annual earnings guidance.