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New Zealand shares fell, tracking overseas stocks down, as investors took profits ahead of the upcoming earnings season and amid concern about flaring geopolitical tensions that saw oil surge following escalating violence in Iraq.
The NZX 50 Index slipped 24.602, or 0.5 percent, to 5170.508. Within the index, 29 stocks fell, 10 rose, and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $125 million.
A surge in violence across Iraq raised the prospect of a return to sectarian civil war in OPEC's second-biggest oil producer. The price of oil jumped amid concerns there could be disruption of oil supplies. Islamist rebels have overrun several key cities in the north of Iraq and are threatening to take their fight to Baghdad.
In overseas markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.7 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 0.7 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.9 percent. European equities were broadly flat while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 0.4 percent.
"We are probably just following those overseas cues," said James Smalley, a director at brokerage Hamilton Hindin Greene. "It's a little bit of profit taking perhaps on the back of some offshore weakness and a few geopolitical concerns. The issue with Iraq is oil and oil is obviously one thing that can really impact on the global economy, particularly if that spikes. Perhaps the more conservative investor is taking a little bit of risk out of their portfolios by adding to their cash positions."
Also weighing on stocks, some investors may be selling their shares to realise a profit on concern valuations may have run too far and won't be supported by earnings from companies with June 30 balance dates, which are scheduled for release in coming months, Smalley said.
"Some people may be taking money out of the market ahead of that reporting season in case some of the results that come out don't justify some of the price rises that we have seen over the last six to nine months," Smalley said. "In the absence of any positive cues out there, people are perhaps looking at some of that negative news out there and deciding they are sitting on a few profits."
Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, fell 1.2 percent to $8.97 on concern earnings may be crimped by a weak Australian economy. A report on Australian employment yesterday showed that while the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.8 percent, employment growth of 4,800 was less than half that expected.
Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund slipped 0.3 percent to $5.91. The New Zealand Markets Disciplinary Tribunal has fined Fonterra Cooperative Group $150,000 for breaching continuous disclosure requirements to the NZX during the dairy manufacturer and exporter's botulism false alarm last August.
OceanaGold jumped 7.1 percent to $3.34, making it the best performer on the NZX 50 today. The Melbourne-based gold miner said it isn't aware of any material information requiring disclosure which would account for its share price rise after its stock surged as much as 9.3 percent to a 15-month high of $3.41 in intraday trading. The share price was probably reflecting a rise in gold prices overnight, it said. Gold prices touched a three-week high yesterday, buoyed by safe-haven demand prompted by unrest in Iraq.
Abano Healthcare shares were unchanged at $6.90. Dissident shareholders seeking removal of Abano Healthcare chairman Trevor Janes admitted likely defeat at the special meeting to vote on the issue in Auckland today, amid accusations of predatory behaviour from other shareholders.The meeting took 90 minutes to get to the vote on the single item on the agenda: a motion from founder Abano director Peter Hutson and fellow shareholder James Reeves to remove Janes.
Snakk Media slumped 12 percent to 9.6 cents after the company, which matches advertisers with app users and social media, said annual sales nearly doubled to $7.1 million , while its loss widened 62 percent to $1.89 million as it chased growth in Asia.
Comvita rose 1.3 percent to $3.85 after the maker of health-care products and supplements based on honey, lifted the cash component of its takeover offer for New Zealand Honey, the Timaru-based honey produce owned by the New Zealand Honey Producers Cooperative that operates the Hollands Honey, 3 Bees and Sweet Meadow brands. The purchase price will now comprise $10.3 million in cash and $2 million Comvita shares issued at $3.50 apiece, Comvita said in a statement. The deal had originally been for $7.3 million of cash and $5 million of shares.