New Zealand shares rose as stocks exposed to consumer leisure sectors found support with coronavirus restrictions set to ease, led by pay-TV operator Sky Network Television.

The S&P/NZX 50 increased 46.36 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 10,695.59. Within the index, 21 stocks rose, 26 fell, and three were unchanged. Turnover was $181.1 million.

Firms hamstrung by the Covid–19 containment picked up more support today as investors rallied around stocks with exposure to the leisure sector, with the prospect of looser restrictions allowing more activities and easier shopping.

"Some of the consumer discretionary assets have had a bit of a recovery as there is a freeing up of the economy here and in Australia," said Shane Solly, a portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management.


Sky TV led the market higher, rising 6.7 per cent to 32 cents as investors anticipated professional sport resuming under level 2. The pay-TV operator's biggest asset has been its grip on premium sports rights, something it's had to do without through the lockdown.

"Undoubtedly, sports content is the lifeblood of Sky TV, so getting some content back in the form of rugby and netball must be a huge relief," Solly said.

"That is key differentiator that people buy Sky telly for and there will be no other ways to watch the game if you can't go to the stadiums."

New Zealand Rugby - a Sky TV shareholder - said it had been "given the green light for professional sport to resume at level 2" with a Super Rugby tournament ready to go as soon as the alert level is downgraded.

Solly said a number of businesses that may need to raise capital also found support from investors buying in in an anticipation of an offer.

Tourism Holdings has also been on a winning streak this week, up 25 per cent since Monday after rising 6 per cent to $1.60 today. Investors have been encouraged by lockdown restrictions easing around the world and the prospect of trans-Tasman travel resuming.

Casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group rose 2.1 per cent to $2.49, again on the prospect of the leisure economy kicking back to life.

Companies offering reliable dividends are also back in demand as interest rates are expected to stay low for the foreseeable future. While the Reserve Bank has said it won't move the official cash rate from its 0.25 per cent level for the next year, some economists predict the cash rate may move into negative territory.


"People are thinking about how to invest in that environment, with income yield-type stocks having a bounce," Solly said.

Spark New Zealand rose 2.5 per cent to $4.60, Mercury NZ increased 3.5 per cent to $4.80 and Meridian Energy rose 2.2 per cent to $4.70

Property for Industry said today its balance sheet and cash flow are in a strong enough position for it to continue paying dividends — one of few listed companies to pay out a dividend during the coronavirus crisis. Still, it warned it was still unable to assess the impact Covid-19 would have on earnings with a number of tenants requiring rent relief. The shares fell 2.2 per cent to $2.21.

"They've been doing a really great job looking after their tenants and managing to bring an outcome positive to expectations," Solly said.

AMP gained 4.1 per cent at $1.52 after updating shareholders at its annual meeting on its turnaround plan. The dual-listed financial services firm today abandoned plans to sell its New Zealand wealth management business following disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to economic and financial markets. It said it declined a number of offers which did not meet expectations.

Air New Zealand fell 0.4 per cent to $1.23 as investors digested the impact of its deal with the NZ Air Line Pilots' Association that will see 300 pilots made redundant and another 900 taking a 30 per cent pay cut for the next three months.


Auckland International Airport also fell 0.4 per cent to $5.68.

Fletcher Building posted the day's biggest loss, falling 2.9 per cent to $3.40.

Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets said the question on investors' minds in coming months would be how businesses would settle into the post-Covid 'new normal'.

"Locally, the test over the next few weeks and months is once the initial enthusiasm of getting back dies off — what is normal business going to look like?"