New Zealand shares edged up, led by the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund as a stronger than expected dairy auction was seen as an optimistic sign for the sector, despite the fact that it would add pressure to earnings.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 15.31 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 9,415. Within the index, 22 stocks rose, 20 fell, and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $189.7 million, of which Fletcher Building accounted for $52.5m.
Fonterra Fund units rose 2.6 per cent to $4.41, on a volume of 197,000, about half its 90-day daily average. The units hit a record low last week after Fonterra downgraded its earnings forecast and canned plans for an interim dividend. However, they've recovered over the last few days after Miles Hurrell was confirmed as permanent chief executive, and after the Global Dairy Trade auction showed a sharper increase in dairy prices than expected.
Peter McIntyre, an investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners, said the increased milk price is an added cost for Fonterra and will add pressure on earnings, which the fund's exposed to.
"However, investors might be looking at Fonterra's outlook," he said.
A2 Milk CO slipped 0.4 per cent to $14.75 on a volume of 805,000, while Synlait Milk was up 0.1 per cent at $1.0.48 on a typically small volume of 73,000.
New Zealand's market has been attractive for investors seeking relatively stable dividend streams in an environment where global interest rates are expected to remain lower for longer.
"Those qualities, particularly in infrastructure companies, are well-supported," McIntyre said. "That's what investors are looking for."
Meridian Energy gained 1.7 per cent to $3.845 on a smaller volume than usual of 874,000, while Argosy Property was up 1.2 per cent at $1.265 and Stride Property gained 1 per cent to $1.95.
Of companies shedding rights to dividends today, Investore Property was down, 0.6 per cent, or 1 cent, after shedding rights to a 1.935 cent dividend, Goodman Property Trust was unchanged at $1.67, having shed rights to a 1.663 cent dividend, on a volume of 1 million. New Zealand Refining was also unchanged at $2.03, shedding rights to a 4.5 cent dividend.
Fletcher Building was the most active stock with a volume of 10.8 million, compared to its 1.7 million average. Of that, 9.99 million shares traded at $4.85. The stock ended the day down 1.4 per cent at $4.87.
Spark New Zealand was the second most traded on a volume of 4.9 million, slightly more than usual. It increased by 0.4 per cent to $3.74.
Of other stocks trading on volumes of more than 1 million, Contact Energy rose 0.5 per cent to $6.47, Trade Me fell 0.3 per cent to $6.40, Sky Network Television declined 1.4 per cent to $1.41, Precinct Properties New Zealand rose 0.3 per cent to $1.55, Mercury NZ was down 0.3 per cent at $3.66, and Chorus dipped 0.2 per cent to $5.34.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare gained 1.4 per cent to $14.95 on a smaller than usual volume of 518,000. The stock has been well-supported since settling a long-running patent dispute with rival ResMed. Today, it updated investors at the Deutsche/Craigs NZ investor day in Sydney.
SkyCity Entertainment Group fell 2.1 per cent $3.79 on a volume of 1.2 million, almost twice its three-monthly average. The casino operator posted the biggest decline on the benchmark index for the day, and is among those companies to have already shed rights to upcoming dividend payments.
Arvida is another to have already gone ex-dividend, and was down 1.6 per cent at $1.27 on a lighter volume than usual of 169,000.