New Zealand shares joined a global selloff as investor sentiment soured amid warnings that easing lockdowns could cause a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index slipped 30.64 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 10,788.03. Within the index, 31 stocks fell and 19 rose. Turnover was $236.2 million.
Stock markets across Asia followed Wall Street lower after US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned premature lifting of lockdowns could trigger new outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus, claiming more lives and further damaging economies, many of which have started to reopen.
New Zealand's benchmark index fell as much as 1.3 per cent during the day, before regaining some ground as US futures began to turn upwards.
"Our market started off weaker, but we've actually picked up some momentum," said Peter McIntyre, an investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners.
"In the early stages today, US futures were in negative territory but have strengthened throughout the course of the day."
SkyCity Entertainment Group led the market lower, falling 5.5 per cent to $2.41, giving up the gains it made after the announcement New Zealand would move to alert level 2.
Fuel retailer Z Energy dropped 4.4 per cent to $3.04 after it released weekly fuel volume data showing demand still down 42 per cent compared to pre-lockdown levels. Refining NZ fell 4.6 per cent to 83 cents.
The uncertain economic outlook drove investors away from Fletcher Building, which fell 4.5 per cent to $3.20, ahead of a budget announcement that may include new infrastructure projects.
"Investors are looking for something in the budget for Fletcher, but the government has already made pledges on infrastructure so it's a question of whether there will be anything new," McIntyre said.
The day's 'risk-off mood' saw some companies give up recent gains. Tourism Holdings fell 3.6 per cent to $1.62, Kathmandu Holdings slipped 2.9 per cent to 99 cents and Sky Network Television decreased 2.7 per cent to 36 cents.
The NZX50 was buoyed by the Reserve Bank's decision to buy up $60 billion in government bonds, doubling its quantitative easing programme. It kept the official cash rate at 0.25 per cent, but said it was prepared to use more tools if and when necessary.
That pushed the New Zealand dollar lower offering a boost to the NZX's two biggest stocks, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and A2 Milk. Both companies sell products in international markets and benefit from a weaker currency.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose 3.3 per cent to $31.00 and A2 Milk increased 1.3 per cent to $19.55. Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units advanced 2.6 per cent to $3.50.
Stock market operator NZX posted the day's biggest gain, up 3.9 per cent at $1.35.
The dual-listed lenders were stronger, with Westpac Banking Corp up 1.3 per cent at $16.39 and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group advancing 0.4 per cent to $16.58. ASX-listed rival Commonwealth Bank of Australia today provided A$1.5b ($1.6b) against potential losses from the Covid-19 crisis, and sold a controlling stake in its Colonial First State funds management arm.
"The banks have been through the global financial crisis and their financial position is so much stronger than it was last time. They have spent a whole decade building up capital, so they are in good shape to withstand the shock from Covid," McIntyre said.
Outside the benchmark index, NZME fell 5.7 per cent to 25 cents. The media group released its notice of meeting yesterday, which showed a shareholder resolution seeking to break up the company.