New Zealand shares eased as investors continued to fret about US-China trade tensions and the political impasse in the US.
The S&P/NZX 50 index fell 8.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 9106.03. Within the index, 19 stocks rose, four were unchanged and 27 fell. Turnover was light at $79.1 million.
Overnight the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.2 per cent, while the S&P 500 shed 1.4 per cent. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.9 per cent, as growth concerns resurfaced in the US after a long weekend.
US markets were weaker after the IMF lowered its forecasts for economic growth earlier in the week. Losses accelerated after the Financial Times said the Trump administration turned down an offer to hold preparatory trade talks with China. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied the report.
"It is a little bit weaker today, but holding up okay. Obviously, we had some soft leads from the US overnight, more trade tension worries and government shutdown worries," said Grant Davies, an investment advisor at Hamilton Hindin Greene in Christchurch.
The highest volume was once again in Spark New Zealand, which saw 2.4 million shares exchange hands, below its average of 3.5 million over the past three months. The stock rose 1.5 per cent to $4.02.
The second most heavily traded was Trade Me, with 1.8 million shares changing hands. The stock was unchanged at $6.34, still below the $6.45 per share price that UK-based Apax Partners has offered in a takeover bid that is subject to shareholder and court approvals.
Z Energy was third, with a volume of 1.4 million shares. It gained 2.6 per cent at $5.96 after increasing its full-year earnings guidance by more than $15m due to improved margins following the sharp drop in oil prices late last year.
The country's biggest fuel retailer said falling crude prices and the resulting reduction in pressure on margins will enable it to deliver operating earnings of between $420m and $450m for the year ending March 31.
"That's good news for those investors who have had a bit of a tumultuous time of late," said Davies.
The only other stock in the top 50 to trade more than one million shares was Precinct Property, which shed 0.3 per cent to $1.48.
Payroll software provider PaySauce added 27 per cent to 1.4 cents after it said its recurring revenue in the December quarter was 109 per cent ahead of the same quarter of 2017. PaySauce listed on NZX on December 21 via a backdoor listing through the shell of Energy Mad.
"Fair play if they can find some momentum... it is good to have more stocks on the market," said Davies.
Logistics and fleet management technology firm Eroad reported a lift in the number of units sold in the third quarter of its financial year, despite the holiday season. The stock added 2.1 per cent to $2.45.
Mercury NZ shed 1.8 per cent to $3.515. Earlier it said high spot prices in the December quarter should enable it to meet its full-year earnings guidance despite lower hydro production and the loss of earnings from its soon-to be-sold meter business.
Meridian Energy fell 1.5 per cent to $3.515; Genesis Energy gained 0.8 per cent at $2.66 and Contract Energy fell 0.5 per cent to $6.08.
PGG Wrightson fell 1 per cent to $0.485. The company said current chair Joo Hai Lee will step down before June 28 but that the board will continue its governance review in the meantime.
Lee represents Wrightson's former majority shareholder, Singapore-registered Agria. He took over as chair in early November after Agria principal Alan Lai abruptly resigned the day before the scheduled annual shareholders' meeting.