New Zealand shares edged higher after a late rally, with most port stocks stronger ahead of tomorrow's release of the upper North Island supply chain study recommending Northport take over as the principal import port for Auckland.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 7.74 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 11,291.96. Within the index, 19 stocks rose, 20 fell, and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $119.1 million.
Equity markets across Asia were mixed as investors await the upcoming British election and ongoing trade talks between China and the US. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.3 per cent in afternoon trading, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 0.6 per cent, and Japan's Nikkei 225 Index was down 0.1 per cent.
Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene, said the local market was very mixed today with investors taking profits in some stocks that had had strong runs.
"Wall Street was a touch weaker and international markets are relatively mixed as well with small movements either way," Williamson said.
"As we get closer to the Christmas and New Year period you'll see lower volumes traded."
Port of Tauranga led the local market higher, up 2.9 per cent at $6.85 on a volume of 83,000 shares, less than its 90-day average of 120,000.
The government is poised to release the final report by the Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy working group, which has reportedly recommended Auckland's downtown port operations be slowly shifted to Northport at Marsden Point in coming decades.
Marsden Maritime Holdings, which jointly owns Northport with Port of Tauranga, increased 1.4 per cent to $7.15. Of other port operators, Napier Port increased 1.5 per cent to $3.44 and South Port was unchanged at $6.90.
A2 Milk continued to bounce back from the surprise exit by chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka earlier this week, up 1 per cent at $15.12. Synlait Milk, which supplies A2, rose 1.6 per cent to $9.20.
Fletcher Building, the country's biggest construction firm, increased 0.8 per cent to $5.24 on a volume of 1.2 million shares. Finance Minister Grant Robertson today outlined high-level plans for an extra $12 billion of capital spending on infrastructure, primarily on roads and rail over five years.
Mainfreight, a global logistics group and ardent supporter of more rail investment, rose 1.6 per cent to $41.70.
Sky Network Television hit an all-time low 72 cents, ending the day at 73 cents, down 5.2 per cent on a volume of 814,000 shares compared to its 1.1 million average. The pay-TV operator has been in freefall as new management attempts to overhaul the business while it fends off a growing number of rivals in the online broadcasting space.
Ryman Healthcare declined 1.9 per cent to $15.84, having hit a record $16.14 yesterday. The country's biggest retirement village operator has gained 47.4 per cent so far this year, one of the top performers on the benchmark index.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was unchanged $21.60, and is the best performer so far, up 65.2 per cent in the year to date.
Pushpay Holdings was the most traded stock today on a volume of 2.2 million shares. It fell 1 per cent to $3.98.
Spark New Zealand declined 0.9 per cent to $4.33 on a volume of 1.9 million. Of other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Meridian Energy rose 1 per cent to $5, Mercury NZ decreased 0.2 per cent to $4.89, Auckland International Airport slipped 0.4 per cent to $9, and Infratil was up 0.3 per cent at $4.925.
Outside the benchmark index, Evolve Education entered a trading halt pending a capital raising. The shares last traded at 14.7 cents.
Williamson said the capital raising wasn't a surprise given the recent spending spree the early childhood education provider had undertaken in Australia.
Hallenstein Glasson increased 0.3 per cent to $5.97. The retailer reiterated its recent trading performance at today's annual meeting, noting that margins were under pressure.
Government data today showed the Black Friday and Single's Day sales helped lift consumer spending on credit and debit cards in November. Among the listed retailers, Warehouse Group fell 0.7 per cent to $2.82, Smiths City Group was unchanged at 26 cents, Briscoe Group decreased 0.3 per cent to $3.75 and Kathmandu Holdings was unchanged at $3.07.
Shell company CSM Group shares were halted today. They last traded at 2.3 cents. The company today said it agreed to buy supplements and skincare firm Me Today in an all-share deal, effectively reverse listing the early-stage company. The transaction needs shareholder approval with a meeting expected to be held in March.
NZX shares were unchanged at $1.28.