Strong GDP figure boosts shares

The New Zealand sharemarket extended gains today with investor sentiment bolstered by December's higher-than-expected growth figures.

The NZX 50 was up 3.346 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4352.78 this lunchtime. Fourteen companies gained, 15 declined, and 21 remained unchanged.

Figures released today showed the economy raced ahead at the end of last year, growing a better-than-expected 1.5 per cent in the December quarter, boosted by a forestry boom and a jump in retail spending and construction.

It was the strongest quarterly growth since December 2009, Statistics New Zealand said, and followed a soft patch earlier in 2012.

Stock markets around the world closed higher as the Federal Reserve held firm to its plan to stimulate the United States economy through bond purchases, while the euro steadied on hopes European policymakers would contain the financial crisis in Cyprus.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 per cent at 14,511.73, and the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 0.8 per cent to 3,254.19.

European shares snapped a three-day losing streak, with the FTSEurofirst 300 index closing 0.3 per cent higher while MSCI's world equity index rose 0.4 per cent.

Xero led gainers on the local bourse. The cloud accounting software firm continued its rapid acceleration, rising 3.5 per to a record $11.90.

Software provider Diligent Board Member Services also rose with a gain of 1 per cent to $11.90, after its annual report showed rapid growth in 2012.

The company's report, filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission today, showed its revenue for 2012 was $US43.7 million, an increase of 143 per cent compared with 2011.

Summerset, the retirement firm, continued its rise from yesterday to gain 0.8 per cent to trade at $2.59.

Wellington-based property investor DNZ Property Fund edged up 0.6 per cent to $1.72. New Zealand Oil & Gas, the energy exploration and production firm, followed suit with a 0.6 per cent rise to 87 cents.

At the other end Mainfreight fell 3.8 per cent to trade at $11.30. The international trucking and logistics company released its forecast this morning, which showed its newly acquired European operation had not delivered returns as quickly as anticipated.

Vector, the Auckland electricity and gas supplier, dropped 2.1 per cent to $2.76.

Investment holding company Guinness Peat Group continued to fall 1.7 per cent to 59 cents, after undergoing a share buy-back by the company on Tuesday.

Heartland Bank, New Zealand's newest bank, was down 1.3 per cent to trade at 74 cents.