Kiwi up slightly on greenback

New Zealand stocks edged up slightly on a quiet day, as unexpectedly benign inflation data in Australia took the wind out of the Aussie dollar.

AMP, the Australian wealth manager, led the gainers, while PGG Wrightson, the rural services company, fell.

The NZX50 Index rose 0.64 points or 0.015 per cent to close at 4,187.72.

23 stocks rose and 14 fell.

The kiwi recently traded at US84.2c, up marginally from US84c at 8am this morning.

AMP led gainers on the local bourse, up 2.46 per cent to $6.66.

Heartland New Zealand, the country's newest bank, rose 1.49 per cent to 0.68c

Trade Me stocks rose 1.47 per cent to $4.13 with Sky Network Television, the pay TV operator, up 1.43 per cent to $4.97.

Shares in Fletcher Building, the country's biggest construction firm, rose on the back of improved profit guidance by Australian rival Boral, despite the New Zealand Government announcing it would split a $40 million procurement deal to supply wallboard for the Christchurch rebuild between Fletcher Building-owned Winstone Wallboards and multi-national German manufacturer Knauf.

Peter Sigley, an institutional broker at Goldman Sachs, said Boral's upgrade to guidance and the resulting boost to perceptions of the construction sector was probably behind the rally.

PGG Wrightson led the decliners, falling 6.52 per cent to close the day at 0.43c after Goldman Sachs analyst Adrian Allbon downgraded its rating to a "sell", mainly on valuation grounds.

Pumpkin Patch, the children's clothing chain, fell 3.6 per cent to $1.34.

Telecom, the country's biggest phone company, fell 2.11 per cent to $2.32 after helping drive small sharemarket gains yesterday.

On the currency markets the New Zealand dollar gained slightly against the greenback.

The kiwi recently traded at US84.2c, up marginally from US84c at 8am this morning.

It was 75.50 on the Trade Weighted Index against major trading partners' currencies, up from 75.30 at 8am.

Direct FX currency adviser Sam Coxhead said Aussie inflation data had mirrored the recent New Zealand CPI announcement by proving lower than expected, which was keeping both countries' currencies beneath recent highs.

Falling prices of vegetables and technology goods helped keep Australian inflation subdued, triggering a fresh round of interest rate speculation.

The Australian consumer price index, a measure of prices paid by consumers for commonly bought items, rose only 0.2 per cent in the December quarter, below expectations, with the inflation rate lifting to 2.2 per cent for the year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Economists had expected the CPI to show an annual inflation rate of 2.4 per cent, in the middle of the Reserve Bank of Australia's target range of 2 to 3 per cent, and the lower figure could affect the Australian central bank's deliberations whether to cut interest rates.

The Australian dollar dipped following the inflation result.

On the crosses, the New Zealand dollar recently traded at 79.72 Australian cents, up from A79.52 earlier, and 74.37 yen, down from 74.52 yen. It was at 63.09 euro cents, up from 63.07 euro cents, and 53.07 pence, up from 52.93 pence earlier. Coxhead said the kiwi may trade between its current level and around US83.5c overnight.

The 90 Day Bank bill rate was 2.68 per cent.