A listless New Zealand sharemarket struggled for a direction as nervousness crept in over where Covid-19 will take the country next.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index finished the day 8.90 points or 0.08 per cent ahead at 11,500.82 after trading between 11,491 and 11,575 points. Nearly 68 million shares worth $228.88 million were traded, and there were 76 gainers and 60 decliners over the whole market.
Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, said it was "a bit of a directionless day" but there were positive leads from another strong day in the United States and the ongoing support from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand which is determined to keep interest rates low.
"Low interest rates are good for the market, but there is nervousness about whether there will be tougher (lockdown) restrictions. The path for the market over the next week or two will be confirmation of the restrictions and the plethora of corporate earnings.
"Next week will start to get busy. The heavyweights will be reporting, the news will flow and you could see more substantial movements," said Lister.
As the country entered its second day of renewed Covid restrictions, SkyCity declined 3c to $2.40; Tourism Holdings was down 1c to $1.74, and Air New Zealand was steady $1.325, while Auckland International Airport increased 1c to $6.30 on strong turnover of shares worth $22.3m.
More than $4m worth of Kiwi Property shares changed hands, the Sylvia Park shopping centre owner falling 2c or 1.96 per cent to $1.00. Retailer Kathmandu was down 3c or $2.63 per cent to $1.11
One of the biggest movers, AMP increased 15c or 9.87 per cent to $1.67 after a series of announcements. AMP's profit attributable to shareholders for the first half of this year was A$203m ($220.22m) compared with a loss of $2.29 billion for the same period last year. Revenue slipped slightly from $2.135b to $1.976b.
Following the sale of AMP Life, the established insurance firm is returning A$544m to shareholders including a special dividend of 10c a share. AMP is also repurchasing Mitsubishi Trust and Banking Corporation's 15 per cent shareholding in AMP Capital for $460m as both entities concentrate on their own growth paths.
A busy capital raising period, plus new investors coming onboard, helped NZX to a 41 per cent increase in net profit to $9.1m, compared with $6.4m for the same period last year. Operating earnings were up 21.5 per cent to $17.6m, and NZX's share price rose 4c or 2.61 per cent to $1.57.
Precinct Properties, which developed Commercial Bay at the bottom of Queen St, reported a 81.6 per cent fall in net profit to $35.1m for the year ending June 30. Its portfolio revaluation dropped $66.3m compared with a gain of $161.7m last year, and it announced a full-year dividend of 6c a share. Precinct's share price increased 4.5c or 2.72 per cent to $1.70.
Wall Street had another strong day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 289.93 points or 1.05 per cent to 27,976.84; S&P 500 Index was up 46.66 points or 1.4 per cent to 3380.35; and the technology-driven Nasdaq Index was the best, rising 229.42 points or 2.13 per cent to 11,012.24.
The American market got excited when electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla said it was splitting its shares five for one, and its price rose 12.83 per cent to US$1550.77 ($2361). Apple is also making a four for one share split and its price went up 3.32 per cent to US$452.04.