New Zealand shares fell, led lower by Summerset Group, after the retirement village operator and developer cited a slowing property market in reporting weak sales. Rivals Ryman Healthcare and Metlifecare suffered accordingly.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index dropped for a third day, down 35.55 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 9,857.05. Within the index, 21 stocks fell, 22 rose, and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $134 million with just five companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares.
Summerset sank 7 per cent to $6.07 on a volume of 689,000 shares, more than twice its 90-day average. The company reported a 4.2 per cent decline in first-quarter sales and said it's starting to see the impact of a slowing property market in Auckland and Christchurch. Ryman fell 2.7 per cent to $12.06 and Metlifecare declined 1.8 per cent to $4.91.
"The rising property market underpinned their shares on the way up, it therefore follows that the reverse is true on the way down," said Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets.
Without that tailwind, investors will be looking more closely at the retirement village sector's underlying earnings, he said.
Arvida Group declined 0.8 per cent to $1.31, while outside the benchmark index, Oceania Healthcare dropped 3.9 per cent to $1 on a bigger volume than usual of 1.6 million shares.
Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock with 5.9 million shares changing hands. It rose 1.5 per cent to $3.645, snapping a two-day decline since managing director Simon Moutter announced his exit.
Trade Me Group was unchanged at $6.44 on a volume of 3 million shares. Shareholders this week voted in favour of a $6.45 per share takeover offer.
Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Contact Energy increased 1.9 per cent to $6.93, Auckland International Airport decreased 0.1 per cent to $8.13 and Kiwi Property Group slipped 0.3 per cent to $1.495.
Chorus hit a record $6.045 in trading today, ending the day at $6.01, up 1.6 per cent.
NZX was unchanged at $1.01. The stock market operator outlined its cost-cutting programme at its annual meeting in Dunedin today. Dissident shareholder Mike Daniel has been agitating for the board to clamp down on costs.
Fat Prophets' Smith said the cost-out strategy can only get NZX so far, and that it will have to lift top-line revenue, while noting the expected floats of Napier Port and Vodafone New Zealand could be a boon for the stock market operator. The flood of debt listings helped drive increased listing fees, but they aren't traded as actively as equities and don't attract the same transactions fees for the stock market, he said.
Housing New Zealand listed $1.3 billion of wholesale sustainability bonds and medium-term notes on the NZX today, although the securities didn't trade.
Heartland Group Holdings rose 1.9 per cent to $1.62. Its banking subsidiary set the rate on a five-year $125m bond at 3.55 per cent per annum, a margin of 1.75 per cent. The notes will list on the NZX on April 15.
Smith said the positive noises coming from the US-China trade talks were good news for markets, although investors have largely priced in a positive deal after last year's uncertainty triggered a sharp sell-off in the December quarter.
Exporters were mixed, with Pushpay up 2.1 per cent at $3.46 while Gentrack rose 1.9 per cent to $5.35. A2 Milk Co fell 1.6 per cent to $14.55 on a volume of 521,000, almost half its three-monthly average. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare declined 1.6 per cent to $15.40, and Mainfreight slipped 21.6 per cent to $37. Kathmandu, which counts Australia as its biggest market, dropped 4.5 per cent to $2.34 on a smaller than usual volume of 95,000 shares.
Outside the benchmark index, Evolve Education soared 44 per cent to 23 cents on a volume of 497,000 shares, compared to its 90-day average of 164,000. The early education provider said its earnings for the March year were $13.2-13.6m, in the upper half of the $12-14m guidance it gave in November.