MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares up on Yellen testimony, NZX and Ryman hit highs

Today's gains follow other international markets rising.

New Zealand shares gained, following global trends, with NZX and Ryman Healthcare continuing to rise.

The S&P/NZX50 Index rose 24.87 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,610.89. Within the index, 21 stocks rose, 16 fell and 13 were unchanged. Turnover was $182.5 million.

Today's gains followed international markets rising after US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's comments to Congress overnight, in which she flagged that lower-than-expected inflation will likely keep the pace of interest rate increases in check.

"It has really taken its lead off the Yellen testimony, which was interpreted as dovish overnight," said Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management. "You've seen a bit of a rally in bond yields, which had been a key headwind for a number of names. It's risk on in the equity markets for now, although I would say we've been very choppy from one day to the next of late. Volumes have been quite sporadic, with school holidays there are quite a few people away."

NZX was the best performer, up 2.6 percent to $1.18. It has gained 4.4 percent this week and today's price is the highest it has traded since April 2014.

"There's no particular reason, turnovers this year in equities have been somewhat light," Goodson said. "The other issue is that they do particularly well out of IPOs, they haven't been thick on the ground whereas their debt market has been a bit more active. It may be a repricing up towards the multiples of its peers overseas, though sometimes you read too much into moves on fairly small volumes."

Westpac Banking Corp rose 1.5 percent to $33, Auckland International Airport gained 1.5 percent to $6.88, and Vital Healthcare Property Trust advanced 1.4 percent to $2.22.

Ryman Healthcare rose 0.4 percent to $9.03, a high since October 2016. The stock has soared 8.3 percent with uninterrupted gains since last Wednesday.

"It's been the subject of a quite remarkable surge over the past couple of days, seemingly out of nowhere, from one or maybe several large buyers seeking stock in the name," Goodson said. "The interesting thing is the rest of the sector - Metlifecare and Summerset - haven't really participated at all. Certainly, the housing data hasn't been particularly improving, which is something Ryman has clearly leveraged. That has been a real talking point in the market today. It's just trading flows driving the move, but a very unusual move in such a large-cap name."

Fellow retirement village operators Metlifecare rose 1.3 percent to $5.41 while Summerset gained 1.3 percent to $4.76.

Vista Group International was the worst performer, dropping 1.7 percent to $5.90, while Arvida Group fell 1.5 percent to $1.29.

Outside the benchmark index, Pushpay gained 6.1 percent to $1.75 following the close of a $25 million bookbuild where they were sold at $1.51, an 8.5 percent discount. The company yesterday also raised its annualised committed monthly revenue (ACMR) target to US$100 million, announced plans to list in the US within the next 36 months, and gave guidance of US$70 million in revenue for the 2018 financial year, more than double 2017's US$34 million.