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MARKET CLOSE: Shares fall ahead of earnings, Telecom, Chorus, Vector decline

New Zealand shares fell as investors waited on earnings information to justify the benchmark index's year-to-date outperformance of most Asian markets. Telecom dropped after having risen to a year-and-a-half high. Chorus and Vector declined.

The NZX 50 Index fell 8.741 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5152.669. Within the index, 21 stocks fell, 22 rose and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $92 million.

The benchmark index has risen 8.6 percent year-to-date, outperforming Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rise of 2 percent in the same timeframe, while Japan's Nikkei 225 has fallen 13 percent. Investors have been drawn to the country's strong economic data and relatively high yield stocks. Companies with March 31 balance dates are due to report in the coming weeks.

Telecom fell 1.5 percent to $2.625, from last month's high of $2.77 and has outperformed the NZX 50 advancing 14 percent this year. New Zealand's largest telecommunications provider is a popular stock with international investors because of its relative liquidity and 6 percent yield rate.

"It's no surprise to see Telecom come back and have a little bit of a breather after being so well supported," said Shane Solly, director and portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management. "A lot of New Zealand large-cap stocks have screened particularly well for those global investors looking for yield and so we've certainly seen in the last four to six weeks a real enthusiasm for some of those larger capitalisation high yielding stocks."

Chorus, the telecommunications network provider, fell 1.2 percent to $1.68, and offers a 9.1 percent yield. Vector, the Auckland lines company, slipped 0.4 percent to $2.54, and has a 6 percent yield.

"The New Zealand market is very strong in a global context and certainly it will be important to see some of that earnings momentum catch up," Solly said.

TrustPower, the energy retailer which is controlled by Infratil, rose 0.4 percent to $7.05 after reporting a decline in annual net profit to $115.1 million from $123.4 million a year earlier. The Tauranga-based utility said it is looking to its Australian windfarm investments to bolster sluggish New Zealand earnings.

Infratil, the infrastructure investor, fell 0.2 percent to $2.265 and is due to report its annual earnings next week.

Z Energy, the transport fuel refiner, fell 0.3 percent to $3.82. Yesterday the Wellington-based company said its underlying earnings rose 12 percent to $219 million after it gave up its market share to chase fatter margins.

A2 Milk Company led the market lower, down 3.9 percent to 75 cents, and has gained 4.2 percent over the past year.

"A2 has been a stellar performer," Solly said. "It's just one of those ones where people are pausing to consider where that growth comes from next."

Ryman Healthcare fell 1.4 percent to $8.68. Sky Network Television declined 1.4 percent to $6.41 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare slid 1.2 percent to $4.15.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, rose 0.7 percent to $9.32. Air New Zealand, the nation's carrier, advanced 2.2 percent to $2.13.

OceanaGold lead the day's gainers up 3.5 percent to $2.95.

Outside the benchmark index, Augusta Capital, the property investor, was unchanged at 81.5 cents after it reported a 7 percent drop in annual earnings to $4.63 million.

On the New Zealand Alternative Index, Foley Family Wines, the winemaker majority owned by American businessman Bill Foley, was unchanged at $1.50 after the company said it plans to make an all-scrip $1.9 million takeover offer for pinot noir pioneer Martinborough Vineyard Estates.

(BusinessDesk)

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