NZX leads daily gains

New Zealand stocks edged higher today as positive trade data out of China tempered disappointing iPhone sales in the US.

NZX led the gainers and Fletcher Building fell on good trading volumes, as investors booked profits on the blue chip stock following yesterday's rally.

The NZX50 Index rose 2.19 points or 0.052 per cent to close at 4,189.91.

22 stocks rose and 17 fell.

The kiwi recently traded at US84.30c, up from US84.18c this morning.

NZX, the market operator, led gainers on the local bourse, up 2.34 per cent to $1.31.

PGG Wrightson, the rural services company, had the next biggest gain, rising 2.33 per cent to 0.44c.

Sky Network Television, the pay TV operator, rose 1.61 per cent to $5.05.

Fletcher Building, the country's biggest construction firm, led the decliners after a positive day yesterday, falling 1.61 per cent to $9.19.

Stuart Hardie, an adviser at Craigs Investment Partners, said market sneaked into positive territory on good volumes, which may be a positive sign for the rest of the year's trading considering January was traditionally quiet.

The suspension of the US debt ceiling had boosted sentiment overnight, as had stronger-than-expected profits from IBM and Google, despite Apple's after-hours miss sending its shares lower.

Positive numbers coming out of China had given New Zealand a boost, said Hardie. ''New Zealand and Aussie point towards Asia in a way and any good data out of there helps.''

HSBC's flash PMI for China firmed to a two-year high of 51.9 in January, from 51.5 the previous month, pointing to an acceleration in output for the world's second biggest economy.

Locally the major player was Fletcher Building, which declined with 5 million shares traded.

The Government announced yesterday 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.

''It started its current run on $7 so when you get to $9.20 or $9.30 there are investors who are willing to take a little bit off the top,'' said Hardie.

''We all thought the Christchurch rebuild was going to happen a little bit sooner than it did, then finally the market looked far enough head and said Fletchers are going to do really well out of this. And then you have (Tower Investment head) Sam Stubbs in the paper saying a bubble could be forming, so you do get people saying 'ok, I'll take a little bit off the table'.''

Vital Healthcare Property Trust, the specialist investor in medical clinic real estate, fell 1.60 to $1.23.

Steel and Tube Holdings, the construction materials supplier, fell 1.52 per cent to $2.60.

On the currency markets the New Zealand dollar gained against the greenback as upbeat data on Chinese industry helped offset the drag to sentiment from disappointing results out of tech bellwether Apple.

The kiwi recently traded at US84.30c, up from US84.18c this morning, and was at 75.60 on the Trade Weighted Index against major trading partners' currencies, up from 75.50 this morning.

Tim Kelleher, head of institutional forex sales at ASB institutional bank, said  the dollar had been hovering around 84c for days. Chinese data had added to stronger sentiment, with the only negative today being the disappointing Apple result. ''All in all the kiwi's had a positive day.''

On the crosses, the kiwi recently traded at 80.10 Australian cents, up from A79.79c this morning, and 75.18 yen, up from 74.57  yen earlier, after nuclear rumblings from North Korea damaged the yen. The kiwi was trading at 63.29 euro cents, up from 63.22  euro cents this morning, and 53.23 pence, up from 53.15p.

Kelleher said the kiwi may trade in the range between US84c and US 84.60 overnight.

The 90 Day Bank bill rate was 2.67 per cent.