New Zealand shares fell, joining a global sell off, on concern about heightening tensions between western powers and Russia over Ukraine. A2 Milk Co led declines, paced by Xero and Pacific Edge.
The NZX 50 Index fell 0.7 points, or 38.164 percent, to 5115.799. Within the index, 32 stocks fell, 11 rose and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $200 million.
The European Union is moving to impose further sanctions against Russia amid concerns the nation is adding to its annexation of Crimea with further incursions into Ukraine. Asian markets retreated, with Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropping 1.2 percent in afternoon trading and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index down 0.4 percent.
A2 Milk, which gained 15 percent over the past year, fell 7.1 percent to 78 cents, its lowest this year. Xero fell 5.2 percent to $30.25, and has declined 24 percent in the past month after rising more than 200 percent in 2013. Pacific Edge, which has gained 90 percent over the past nine months, declined 1.9 percent to $1.04.
"There are one or two concerns out there with Russia, and I think investors are being pretty cautious and keeping a close eye on developments there," said Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "With events offshore, whereas a month or two ago everybody was looking at the growth side of the market, now investors are certainly taking a more cautious approach.
"There is still quite a bit of profit-taking in the high growth sector of the market," he said, referring to when investors sell shares to realise gains.
Chorus, the telecommunications network provider, fell 2.8 percent to $1.74. Auckland International Airport dropped 1.5 percent to $3.91. Infratil, the infrastructure investor, slipped 1.3 percent to $2.24 and construction firm Fletcher Building was unchanged at $9.76.
Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund fell 0.7 percent to $6.15, and Synlait Milk gained 0.3 percent to $3.65 after investors speculated the dairy companies would be largely unaffected by new Chinese restrictions on infant formula imports.
OceanaGold was one of the day's few gainers up 3.4 percent to $2.74. Summerset Group Holdings, the retirement village operator, rose 0.9 percent to $3.39 and Sky Network Television advanced 0.6 percent to $6.54.
Telecom climbed 1.9 percent to $2.665.
Contact Energy slipped 2.8 percent to $1.74. State-controlled Meridian Energy declined 1.7 percent to $1.18 while fellow government-controlled MightyRiverPower fell 0.7 percent to $2.285.
Outside the benchmark index, Genesis Energy rose 1.9 percent to $1.855.The last asset to be sold down in the government's partial privatisation programme has gained about 20 percent since listing two weeks ago and is seen as an attractive investment owing to its relatively high dividend yield.
"Investors are viewing it as a defensive income play, even at these levels it still offers one of the best dividend yields on the market," Williamson said.
Goodman Fielder jumped 20 percent to a two-month high of 69 cents on the NZX after the world's biggest palm oil processor, Wilmar International, teamed up with Hong Kong-listed investor First Pacific Co to make an A$1.27 billion offer for the Australasian food ingredients maker. The dual-listed shares were up 19 percent to 65.2 Australian cents on the ASX, just above the 65 Australian cents offer, in afternoon trading.
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