New Zealand shares declined, tracking US and European equities lower as sentiment waned on concern about the euro-zone's financial stability after a major Portuguese bank missed debt payments.
The NZX 50 Index slid 27.421 points, or 0.535 percent, to 5,100.592. Within the index, 30 stocks fell, nine rose, and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $81.3 million.
In northern hemisphere trading overnight, shares of Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo plummeted 17 percent amid concern about missed debt payments by its parent Espírito Santo International before trading in the stock was halted. Investors are concerned about the potential contagion to other economies in the region, and Greece was forced to scale back its plans for its second debt sale following its 2012 default. In New Zealand, the local market failed to recover from initial weaker sentiment in quiet trading during the nation's school holiday period.
"This morning we had a fall off in the European markets given the Portuguese bank that ran into trouble, and that spilled into the Dow, so certainly the sentiment was weak," said Bryon Burke, head of equities at Craigs Investment Partners. "There is a lack of investors, given it is the middle of the school holidays, and sentiment started off the day weak, so there hasn't been enough interest to drive our market back up off its lows."
Cloud accounting software firm Xero led the benchmark lower, down 3.5 percent to $24.75. Just 51,000 of the company's shares were traded, compared with an average daily volume of around 200,000, Burke said.
Pacific Edge, the bladder cancer test developer, fell 2.5 percent to 77 cents, while casino company SkyCity Entertainment Group dropped 2.4 percent to $3.72 and national carrier Air New Zealand declined 2.2 percent to $2.025.
Meanwhile, Telecom Corp, the nation's largest telecommunications company, gained 0.9 percent to $2.715, outdoor clothing and equipment retailer Kathmandu Holdings increased 1.6 percent to $3.24 and Warehouse Group, the nation's largest discount retailer, added 0.3 percent to $3.10.
Demand for the New Zealand dollar, which has pushed the local currency close to its 88.40 US cent post-float record, may see funds start to flow into local equities, Burke said.
"Overseas investors are finding the New Zealand dollar attractive and a lot of that money will be going into fixed interest but some of it will see its way through to equities and that should add support to our market," he said. "Overall sentiment is pretty positive for the New Zealand economy and New Zealand companies so I can't see our market drifting off too much. I imagine we will see strength return to the market maybe next week."
Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund, which give investors exposure to the group's dividends, were unchanged at $5.80 after the world's largest dairy exporter said it plans to build a third farm hub in China in a US$300 million joint venture with New York Stock Exchange-listed Abbott Laboratories, in its latest attempt to latch on to growth in the world's second biggest economy.
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