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MARKET CLOSE: Shares rise; Telecom at month high

 New Zealand stocks rose from a three-month low as investors sought out defensive options ahead of next month's reporting season and September's general election. Telecom Corp paced gains to rise to a month high. Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy rose.

The NZX 50 Index rose 27.273 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5127.865. Within the index, 31 stocks rose, 10 fell and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $99.5 million.

The benchmark index has advanced 8 percent this year, outperforming Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index's 3 percent gain, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index has declined 6.1 percent. In the past month investors have mulled the high valuations of New Zealand stocks, with the NZX 50 falling 1.2 percent.

"Really there is a bit of question mark over some of these valuations and it's going to be the reporting season that's going to pretty much give us some evidence one way or the other," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "I think it will be a mixed bag - we will see some companies perform better than expected and some likely to be under the market expectation, but also with the general election we're not going to see any strong buying coming into this market until we've had that uncertainty removed."

Telecom rose 1.3 percent to $2.75. New Zealand's largest telecommunications provider has gained 19 percent this year.

"Investors are just continuing to look at Telecom as a good defensive play," Williamson said.

Energy companies rose as investors weighed the likelihood of the incumbent National-led government returning for a third term. Opposition parties have promised to restructure New Zealand's energy market, creating a central buying agency to push down retail energy prices which has weighed on the government's partial privatisation of the power companies.

Contact rose 1.7 percent to $5.44. Genesis gained 0.6 percent to $1.81. MightyRiverPower advanced 0.2 percent to $2.27. Vector, the Auckland lines company, increased 0.8 percent to $2.55

Meridian climbed 1.2 percent to $1.245, after the electricity retailer and generator said record warm temperatures had driven a three percent drop off in electricity demand in June compared to last year, while it also recorded a 1.8 percent decrease in average retail contracted sales price in the year ended June 2014.

Trade Me Group, the online auction site, rose 0.6 percent to $3.55 on news potential competitor Wheedle will close after investor Neil Graham invested more than $10 million in the company, Williamson said.

Kathmandu Holdings, the outdoor goods retailer, led the benchmark index higher, up 2.5 percent to a two-week high of $3.32. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose 0.7 percent to $4.66.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's biggest listed company, rose 0.3 percent to $8.88. Xero, the cloud-based accounting software firm, advanced 2 percent to $25.25.

Of the day's few decliners, OceanaGold was the worst performer on the benchmark index, down 1.4 percent to $3.59.

Infratil fell 1.2 percent to $2.45. The infrastructure investor said it will make a final decision on the future of its Australian energy assets in September.

(BusinessDesk)

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