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MARKET CLOSE: Shares rise; Fletcher gains on consents; F&P soars to 8-year high

 New Zealand stocks rose as Fletcher Building climbed to a two-week high on government data showing building activity was growing at its fastest pace in over a decade. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare touched an intraday record.

The NZX 50 Index rose 22.947 points, or 0.4 percent to 5182.437. Within the index, 21 stocks rose, 22 fell and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $128.8 million.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, advanced 3 percent to $9.19, its highest since May 26. This week Statistics New Zealand said first quarter house building activity grew at its fastest pace in almost 12 years as construction ramped up to rebuild Christchurch, the country's second-biggest city, and to fill a housing shortage in Auckland. Shares in the construction company have declined 6.9 percent over the past three months.

"The stats from the other day were very strong which is good for Fletcher Building," said Anthony Halls, who helps manage more than $200 million for Mint Asset Management. "Its been weak recently, so its a bit of a bounce."

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose 1.7 percent to an eight-year high of $4.68, after touching an intraday record of $4.71. The breathing apparatus manufacturer, which exports 98 percent of its product, last month said its 2014 annual profit rose 26 percent to $97.1 million but expects 2015 earnings growth to stall as it struggles against a high kiwi dollar. The kiwi fell to a three-month low this week.

"It's off its strong result, which is what kickstarted the renewed interest in the stock," Halls said. "The kiwi dollar is down a little bit from where it was at the time."

A2 Milk Company, which makes milk with added protein for health benefits, advanced 2.7 percent to 77 cents.

"One of their key competitors in Australia have come out with a new marketing strategy which is designed to essentially position themselves directly against A2," Halls said. "Competition is heating up, which is bad news for the stock, but what's good for the stock is that they're significant enough now that their competitors are worried."

Pacific Edge, the Dunedin-based biotech company, led the benchmark index higher, up 3.7 percent to 84 cents. Diligent Board Member Services, the governance app maker, climbed 1 percent to $4.15. Xero, the cloud-based accounting software firm, declined 1.3 percent to $29.41.

Air New Zealand fell 0.2 percent to $2.21 after the national carrier said it had been awarded $3.2 million towards its legal costs by the Federal Court in Australia as part of the settlement of an air cargo class action. Air New Zealand is not making any payment as part of that settlement.

Argosy Property fell 2 percent, or 2 cents, to 97 cents after it shed rights to its 1.5 cent interim dividend, which is payable June 24.

Off the bourse, Gentrack Group, which develops utilities and airports software, will sell its shares at $2.40 in this month's initial public offer, raising $36 million of new capital, and letting its owners sell down their holdings.

(BusinessDesk)

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