Market close: Sea of red as NZ sharemarket follows Wall Street plunge

The nervousness and caution that persisted this week, for the first time in a long while, caught up with the New Zealand sharemarket which fell more than two per cent following a plunge on Wall Street.

The main board was a sea of red as the S&P/NZX 50 Index slumped 287.54 points or 2.15 per cent to 13,086.46 – its biggest one-day fall in seven months. The index fell 2.3 per cent on July 9. There were 119 decliners and just 24 gainers on trade of 74.9 million share transactions worth $176.14 million.

The Australian S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 2.14 per cent to 6635.80 points at 5.45 pm (NZ time), and overnight the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 633.87 points or 2.05 per cent to 30,303.17. The S&P 500 Index fell 2.57 per cent to 3750.77 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 2.61 per cent to 13,270.60.

Mark Lister, head of private wealth research for Craigs Investment Partners, said the market was overdue “for a little bit of weakness” as it has had a strong run since the United States election.

“We followed the international markets, with the US suffering fairly sharp falls. If the volatility continues over the next few days, there’s no shortage of money sitting on the sideline waiting to get invested,” he said.

“The silver lining of a pull-back is that it makes it easier for investors to find some value. It’s been quite difficult to find opportunity across the market because of its strong run.”

All the blue chip stocks were down. Fisher and Paykel Healthcare fell 70c or 1.99 per cent to $34.50; a2 Milk was down 17c to $11.33; Ebos Group declined 30c to $28.40; Chorus decreased 12c to $8.26; Mainfreight shed $1.11 to $67.29; and Pushpay Holdings was down 10c or 5.95 per cent to $1.58.

Other decliners were Fletcher Building, down 15c or 2.36 per cent to $6.20; Synlait decreasing 11c or 2.28 per cent to $4.72; NZX losing 8c or 3.77 per cent to $2.04; SkyCity Entertainment declining 7c or 2.3 to $2.98; and Tourism Holdings falling 10c or 4.13 per cent to $2.32.

The dual-listed banks joined the volatility – ANZ Banking Group falling 57c or 2.17 per cent to $25.64, and Westpac losing 34c or to $22.74. Heartland Group Holdings fell 7c or 3.72 per cent to $1.81, and AMP was down 6c or 3.64 per cent to $1.59.

The leading energy stocks continued to fall. Contact was down 39c or 4.46 per cent to $8.35; Meridian fell 54c or 6.9 per cent to $7.21; and Mercury shed 26c or 3.53 per cent to $7.11. Genesis Energy slipped 5c, or 1.28 per cent, to $3.84c.

Trustpower, likely to be caught up in a possible fresh takeover bid for Infratil, fell 3c to $8.73 after announcing it was conducting a review of its business with an option of selling its retail operation (with 231,000 customers) and solely focusing on electricity generation. Infratil, the majority shareholder of Trustpower, slumped 19.5c or 2.48 per cent to $7.655.

Lister said for a utilities sector that is supposed to be dull and unexciting, there is plenty happening there. The Trustpower move adds more interest to the energy sector – following the Tiwai Point smelter operating extension, the exchange traded funds buying, and the takeover offer for Infratil.

Retirement village operator Arvida Group reported strong sales for the third quarter ending December but it got caught up in the sell-off and its share price slipped 2c to $1.77. Arvida settled 45 new sales and 85 resales, up 29 per cent on the September quarter and up 17 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

Fellow retirement village operators Ryman Healthcare fell 8c to $15.80, and Summerset Group Holdings was down 20c to $12.20.

Going against the trend, water cooler supplier Just Life continued to surge, up 8c or 7.7 per cent to $1.11 – after sitting at 77c on December 31. Livestock Improvement Corporation increased 6c or 7.14 per cent to 90c on the back of an improved half-year financial result.

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