NZ shares catch Wall Street pessimism

21:54, Feb 25 2013

New Zealand shares dipped at the open, following Wall Street down on fears that a deadlocked Italian election could cause instability in the fragile euro zone.

The NZX 50 Index fell 5.3 points, or 0.13 per cent, to 4221.16 in the first 30 minutes of trade. Heartland Bank led decliners, and OceanaGold rose.

Equity markets and the euro fell overnight on concerns that an unclear outcome for Italian elections might threaten the much-needed fiscal reforms underway in the euro zone's third largest economy.

The centre-right coalition led by four-time premier Silvio Berlusconi is leading the race in early forecasts, dashing the market's hope that his technocrat rivals would win an early victory.

No single party or coalition appears able to form a majority so far, raising the spectre of a deadlocked parliament at the worst possible time for the heavily indebted country.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 45.76 points, or 0.33 per cent, and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 5.37 points, or 0.35 per cent.

On the local bourse, 13 stocks fell and nine rose. Heartland Bank led the way down, shedding 1 cent to 71c after posting a half-year net profit after tax of $10.7 million yesterday, and declaring a debut interim dividend of 2 cents a share.

Construction giant Fletcher Building fell 0.9 per cent to $8.70, reversing most of yesterday's rebound.

Restaurant Brands, the fast food franchise operator, slipped 0.7 per cent to $2.80.

Milking equipment and rubber goods manufacturer Skellerup fell 0.7 per cent to $1.51. 

TrustPower, the electricity company controlled by Infratil, fell 0.7 per cent to $7.70.

OceanaGold led gainers. The operator of the Reefton and Macraes goldfields rose 1.5 per cent to $2.80. 

Guinness Peat Group rose 0.9 per cent to 60c. The investment holding company controls general insurer Tower, which announced the $79m sale of its fund management arm to Fisher Funds this morning.

Tower stock also rose 0.5 per cent to $1.91.

Retirement village operator Summerset Group continued to see further upside, rising 0.8 per cent to $2.58 after yesterday reporting a 243 per cent earnings jump.

Fellow healthcare service provider Metlifecare was also buoyed 0.6 per cent to $3.17.