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MARKET CLOSE: Stocks rise on energy rally; MRP, Meridian and Contact climb

 New Zealand stocks rose, energy stocks extended a rally for a second day as turmoil in the Labour Party fuelled speculation the incumbent National-led government will return for a third term. Meridian Energy, MightyRiverPower, Contact Energy and Genesis climbed.

The NZX 50 Index rose 11.041 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5153.963. Within the index, 23 stocks rose, 13 fell and 14 were unchanged. Turnover was $123 million.

The surprise exit from politics by Labour MP Shane Jones, who ran for the party's leadership last year, to take up a Pacific economic ambassador post created for him by the National-led government, may weaken the opposition party's election chances. The Labour and Green parties want to re-regulate New Zealand's energy market, a policy which spooked investors and depressed interest in the partial privatisation of MRP, Meridian and Genesis over the last 13 months.

Majority state-owned Meridian climbed 1.3 percent to $1.20, a record price for the stock since its October listing. MRP rose 1.8 percent to a near nine-month high of $2.30. Contact advanced 0.7 percent to a year high of $5.73.

Outside the benchmark index, Genesis Energy, the last asset in the government's partial-privatisation scheme to be publicly listed, rose 0.6 percent to $1.82 as $172 million worth of its shares changed hands today. It has gained 17 percent since its launch a week ago.

"The big news on our market has been the relative rally in the energy stocks," said Robert Garden, investment advisor at Craigs Investment Partners. "You could almost put that down to dysfunction in the Labour Party with Shane Jones leaving in the last day or so. It's probably a wee bit of another nail in the coffin for Labour."

Auckland lines company Vector was unchanged at $2.49, as was TrustPower at $6.65. Infratil, which owns half of TrustPower, advanced 0.2 percent to $2.27.

SkyCity Entertainment Group was the day's best performer, rising 2.5 percent to $4.13, paced by Tower, up 2.5 percent to $1.65. OceanaGold rose 1.9 percent to $2.65, and Sky Network Television advanced 1.9 percent to $6.50.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, rose 0.2 percent to $9.76. Telecom slipped 0.8 percent to $2.615 while Auckland International Airport fell 1.5 percent to $3.97.

Pacific Edge, the Dunedin-based biotech company, was the day's worst performer on the bourse, down 5.4 percent to $1.06. Diligent Board Members Services declined 2.4 percent to $4.49 and Xero, the cloud-based accounting software firm, dropped 1.2 percent to $31.90. A2 Milk Company, the premium quality milk marketer, fell 1.2 percent to 84 cents.

Warehouse Group, New Zealand's largest listed retailer, declined 1.5 percent to $3.35. Trade Me Group, the online auction website, climbed 0.5 percent to $3.91 and Brisbane-based jeweller Michael Hill International was unchanged at $1.32.

Outside the benchmark index, Seeka Kiwifruit Industries tumbled 12 percent to $2.63 after earlier this week announcing it had paid $5.25 million for Glassfields (NZ), the fruit ripening and import business, as it seeks growth away from the kiwifruit sector.

(BusinessDesk)