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New Zealand stocks fell, tracking a global decline, as investors' fears of faltering economic recovery were exacerbated by poor manufacturing data in the US, and China. Xero led the market lower, with Trade Me Group and Port of Tauranga pacing the decline.
The NZX 50 Index dropped 46.883 points or about 1 percent to 4802.619, its lowest in three weeks. Within the Index 31 stocks fell, four rose and 15 were unchanged. Total turnover for the day was $123.8 million.
Manufacturing data out of the world's biggest economy, the US, grew at its slowest pace in the past eight months, compounding poor manufacturing, job and export data from the world's second biggest economy, China. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index tumbled 3.3 percent in afternoon trading, while Australia's S&P/ASX 500 and South Korea's KOPSI both dropped 1.8 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng is closed all week for Chinese New Year, but ended last week down 2.4 percent.
The global response weighed on the local market throughout the day, during morning trade the NZX 50 dropped to a four week intraday low, before regaining ground.
"It's a sea of red today, although we held out better than most other markets," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners. "The US got us off to a weak start because of manufacturing data people picked up on that and start to speculate whether there was a soft spot."
Xero, the cloud-based accounting software company, led the market lower, sinking 4.3 percent to $37.80, its lowest price in three weeks.
"For high volatility stock, like Xero, when the market is in a good mood Xero will perform well," Lister said. "But the other side of the coin for a stock like Xero is it can get sold off, because it's higher risk, and more sensitive to the market."
Online auction site Trade Me Group dropped 2.4 percent to $4.03 and Port of Tauranga fell 2.4 percent to $14.10. Stock market operator NZX declined 2.3 percent to $1.25. Healthcare and animal products maker EBOS Group slid 2.3 percent to $9.48.
"There is some negative sentiment, but there's not too much more to it than that," Lister said. "Markets are driven by confidence - when confidence declines you see the market respond."
Auckland International Airport declined 2.2 percent to $3.55. Casino operator Skycity Entertainment Group slipped 1.3 percent to $3.75, while Telecom was down 0.4 percent to $2.335. New Zealand's biggest listed company Fletcher Building was unchanged at $8.96.
Guinness Peat Group led the day's few gainers, up 2.3 percent to 67 cents, a two and a half year high. The investment company is cash rich after a divestment process, but is tied up with an on-going battle with UK pension regulator.
Among other gainers were MightyRiverPower, which rose 0.8 percent to $2, Steel &Tube Holdings gained 1 percent to $3.15 and Auckland-based lines company Vector advanced 0.4 percent to $2.54.