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Market close: Shares rise to four-year high, Fletcher at half-year peak

BUSINESSDESK: New Zealand shares rose, pushing the NZX 50 Index to the highest since January 2008 as optimism about stimulus efforts in the US and Europe lifted equity markets. Fletcher Building rose to a six-month high.

The NZX 50 rose 24.88 points, or 0.7%, to 3817.23, the highest close since January 14, 2008. Within the index, 26 stocks rose, 17 fell and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $128.7 million.

Equity markets rose across Asia, following gains in the US and Europe on Friday, after the Federal Reserve announced un-ending purchases of mortgage debt at $US40 billion a month. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index was up 1.8% in early afternoon trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 0.5%.

Fletcher, the nation's biggest construction company, rose 2.1% to $6.94. Port of Tauranga, the nation's biggest export terminal, gained 1.7% to a record close of $12.87. The port stock is ex-dividend for its 27 cents final payment on September 19.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which counts the US as its biggest market, rose 2.4% to $2.16.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances lifted 1.3% to $1.19, or 1 cent below the offer from Haier to acquire the 80% of the home appliance maker it does not already own.

Tower Investments chief executive Sam Stubbs has said $1.20 a share is far too low and a fairer offer is at least $1.50.

OceanaGold, the operator of the Macraes gold field, rose 4.7% to $3.82. Spot gold rose to $US1775.04 an ounce, the highest since February, as the Fed's QE3 weighed on the greenback and spurred investors to seek gold as an alternative investment.

NZX, the stock market operator, rose 3.6%to $1.15. PGG Wrightson, the nation's largest rural services company, was up 2.7% to 38 cents. Haier's offer for F&P Appliances has stoked speculation Wrightson may come into play as it is 50.01% owned by China's Agria.

NZ Oil & Gas fell 2.9% to 84 cents. Michael Hill International, the jewellery chain, declined 2.5% to $1.16.

Goodman Property Trust slipped about 1% to $1.02 after shedding its 1.563 cent interim dividend.

Warehouse Group, the biggest retailer on the exchange, rose 0.8% to $2.92. The company said today it had purchased import specialist Insight Traders for an undisclosed sum in a bid to better its bargain sourcing capabilities.

"The purchase of this business is a good fit with our existing initiatives and will improve our ability to be the 'House of Bargains' and 'Home of Essentials' for New Zealanders," chief executive Mark Powell says.