By Paul McBeth
Nov. 20 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares gained, led by Fletcher Building after the biggest listed company forecast earnings growth of up to 22 percent, lifting the NZX 50 Index higher. NZ Oil & Gas was the biggest decliner.
The NZX 50 Index rose 30.37 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3972.97. Within the index, 29 stocks gained, 10 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was a bigger-than-normal $177.5 million, with Fletcher shares accounting for $87.9 million today.
Fletcher Building led gainers, rising 3.7 percent to a 13-month high $7.65 after the construction firm flagged operating earnings will be between $560 million and $610 million in the 2013 financial year, up by between 12 percent and 22 percent from a year earlier. The strength of New Zealand's residential market in Christchurch and Auckland is driving that growth.
"They're very focused on improving the productivity of the business and that's something we expect to occur with other companies," said Shane Solly, head of equities at Mint Asset Management. "These are things people want to hear."
Rural services firm PGG Wrightson gained 3.1 percent to 33 cents, while gold miner OceanaGold gained 2.6 percent to $4.18. Tech companies Diligent Board Member Services and Xero rose 2.3 percent to $4.48 and 1.8 percent to $6.10 respectively.
Children's clothing chain Pumpkin Patch was unchanged at $1.25 after chief executive Neil Cowie told shareholders Christmas trading is likely to be tough, with retailers continuing to discount their wares.
Other retailers fell in trading today, with outdoor equipment chain Kathmandu down 1.1 percent to $1.85, Warehouse falling 0.9 percent to $3.17 and Michael Hill International declining 0.8 percent to $1.23.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which derives more than half its revenue in US dollars, fell 0.8 percent to $2.43 after the New Zealand currency rallied half a US cent.
NZ Oil & Gas was the biggest decliner on the NZX 50, falling 1.1 percent to 86.5 cents.
A2 Corp, which markets milk products, fell 1.5 percent to 64 cents after the company told shareholders it's in talks with the stock exchange to shift its listing to the main board from the alternative market.
"With a $400 million market cap it's a reasonably substantial entity in its own right, so it's time to migrate on to the main board," Solly said.
NZAX-listed fast food chain Burger Fuel Worldwide sank 8.9 percent to $1.12 after reporting a 37 percent lift in first-half profit on the strength of its growing Middle East sales. The company still has no plans to pay dividends, instead preferring to focus on growing its international business.
Stock exchange operator NZX was unchanged at $1.24 after research firm Morningstar recommended investors steer clear of the $525 million Fonterra Shareholders' Fund float, and wait until the units trade before buying them.
The research firm gives a ‘do not subscribe’ recommendation for the fund’s initial public offering, saying Fonterra Cooperative Group lacks pricing power over its dairy commodities, generates low returns compared to its multinational peers, and investors won’t know the price they are paying until after the bookbuild process is completed on Nov. 27.
Shares in miner Glass Earth surged 22 percent to 33 cents after the NZAX-listed firm gained rights to take over the Neavesville gold and silver prospect currently controlled by Canadian resource developer Eurasian Minerals.