New Zealand shares fell, led lower by exporters Synlait Milk and Pushpay Holdings, as investors remained nervous about the global economy. Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units rallied as the dairy giant unveiled a new strategy to get earnings back on track.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index decreased 38.67 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 10,822.77. Within the index, 28 stocks fell, 17 rose, and five were unchanged. Turnover was $115.7 million, with just five stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares.

Australian and New Zealand equity markets were weaker despite Wall Street staging a recovery overnight as investors were buoyed by positive comments from US President Donald Trump that his trade war with China may end sooner than people think.

"It was really a very mixed day. The market's a touch weaker and I do feel there's a little bit of nervousness among investors with what's happening offshore," said Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene.


Companies with global exposure were among those leading the local market lower. Pushpay, which generates almost all of its revenue in North America, fell 2.4 per cent to $3.20 on an unusually large volume of 3.7 million shares. It was the most traded stock for the day.

Synlait Milk, which supplies milk marketing firm A2 Milk, posted the day's biggest decline, down 3 per cent at $9. A2 fell 1 per cent to $13.11 on a volume of 1.1 million shares.

The news was more positive for the country's dominant milk processor, with Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units jumping 9 per cent to $3.50, on a volume of 617,000 shares. Fonterra today reported a bigger annual loss of $557m as expected, booking $826m of impairments and other one-off charges. However, it also unveiled a new strategy focused on extracting more value, primarily from its New Zealand business, as opposed to chasing volume.

"The market has been expecting the worst from Fonterra for quite some time now. It's a relief that that result is now behind them, and investors appear to like the new strategy going forward," Williamson said. "That's the best day Fonterra's had for quite some time."

Electricity stocks were also stronger, recovering from a bout of weakness when investors realised some of their gains this year. Contact Energy rose 1.9 per cent to $8.55, Meridian Energy advanced 1.7 per cent to $5.39, Genesis Energy was up 1.6 per cent at $3.445, and Mercury NZ increased 1.1 per cent to $5.01 on a volume of 1.9 million shares.

Spark New Zealand fell 3 per cent to $4.41 on a volume of 1.6 million shares, less than half its 90-day average of 3.3 million. A Commerce Commission report today found the mobile market was in good shape, but that there was scope for consumers to put pressure on carriers by shopping around for the best deal.

Infratil, which owns a cornerstone stake in Vodafone New Zealand, declined 0.4 per cent to $4.88.

Auckland International Airport slipped 0.7 per cent to $9.20 on a volume of 1.2 million while Air New Zealand rose 0.7 per cent to $2.77.


Outside the benchmark index, Plexure Group fell 3.3 per cent to 87 cents after forecasting revenue to rise as much as 36 per cent in the March 2020 year. It didn't provide earnings guidance, saying its investment plans couldn't be accurately assessed.

TIL Logistics dropped 10 per cent to $1.15 on an unusually large volume for the tightly held trucking firm of 2.4 million shares.

Burger Fuel Group was unchanged at 48 cents after telling shareholders the board has reviewed several merger offers and one outright purchase, and is still considering privatisation.

Warehouse Group slipped 0.4 per cent to $2.44, holding most of yesterday's gain, when it reported a 26 per cent increase in annual earnings and its highest dividend in five years.

Tower rose 3.7 per cent to 70.5 cents, clawing back some the past two days' losses after flagging a discounted capital raising to bolster its balance sheet and buy Youi NZ.

Heartland Bank's 2024 bonds paying annual interest of 3.55 per cent were the most traded debt security on a volume of 1.1 million. The notes closed at a yield of 2.71 per cent, up 6 basis points. Heartland Group's shares slipped 0.6 per cent to $1.59.