Sharemarket undergoing a spell of 'correction'

TERRY HALL
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2014

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OPINION: Teachers did not believe in sparing the rod when I went to school. You got the strap - on the hands - for misbehaviour, talking in class or not doing your sums properly.

In the fourth form I ended up in hospital after the boy in the desk behind me deliberately thrust his legs into mine. I stamped on them.

When I turned around, he punched me in the face, smashing my glasses, splintering the lenses into tiny pieces around my eyes.

Medics painstakingly removed the splinters at the hospital.

A doctor said: "Just wait till you get back to school: that other boy will get it. You nearly lost an eye!" After hearing both sides of the story, the headmaster ruled we were both at fault. We both got six of the best, three strokes on each hand, from the thick foot-long leather strap. My mother said nothing and paid for a new pair of specs she could ill afford.

The recent fuss over a boy with long hair highlighted how much education, and parenting, has changed in the past 50-odd years.

I learned from that to accept a situation and move on. And became good friends with the headmaster, who taught me a love of Schubert and the colours of the New Zealand bush.

These days I am subject to the discipline of a more unfathomable teacher - the sharemarket which is going through a patch known as a "correction". In plain English, this means many shares are dropping in value. I should have sold some when the NZX was riding high back in March.

Many assume the NZX is running at record levels but it touched a three-month low last week. Many stocks are well below their 12-month highs.

The continued high level of the NZX Top 50 is due to solid gains from a handful of stocks - notably Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Mainfreight, Port of Tauranga and Spark (formerly Telecom). Last week I counted only 27 stocks of the 150 odd stocks on the NZX main board that are trading at or near their peaks.

Of these, eight are property stocks: Argosy, Augusta Capital, DNZ Property, Goodman Property, Kiwi Income, Vital, Precinct, and Property for Industry. This group has fairly stable share prices as investors buy them for yield.

Their prospects look OK thanks to strengthening business confidence and space shortages, especially in Auckland.

Four takeover targets, or companies involved in merger activity, are also riding high: Acurity Healthcare, Dorchester Pacific, Lyttelton Port and Turners Auctions. Among the new floats, only Metro Glass, Scales, Mighty River Power, and Intueri were trading near or above their listing prices.

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The new tech stocks have had inauspicious starts.

Others trading around year highs were retailer Briscoes, which shows a continuing skill at trading in difficult environments; Green Cross Health; GPG; Kingfish; Horizon Energy; Southport; Tourism Holdings; Seeka Kiwifruit; Turners and Growers; Tenon; and Tourism Holdings.

Some former darlings to show hefty falls include Trade Me, Scott Technology, Kathmandu, Teamtalk, The Warehouse, Chorus, Cavalier, Moa, and New Zealand Refining, as have tech stocks Xero, SLI, Wynyard, and Pacific Edge. In the retirement sector, Ryman, Summerset and Metlifecare have lost some gloss.

Markets do not rise forever and a breather was inevitable after the strong gains the NZX has been enjoying since 2009. In spite of the recent falls, many investors are still sitting on handsome profits, certainly when compared with price levels in 2012 when Fletcher Building was selling for less than $6. There are other reasons.

Many investors, including institutions, have taken advantage of the strong Kiwi dollar and to buy shares overseas, creating downward selling pressure.

The recent drop in the Kiwi dollar, though it remains high, adds to uncertainty, with some forecasting it could fall further.

Uncertainty is further fuelled by the Reserve Bank's management of interest rates.

There is nervousness ahead of the rapidly approaching elections.

What will the political and economic landscape look like if a hodge-podge of Left-wing parties win?

Overseas events worry, including: conflict in the Middle East; the standoff over the Ukraine between the West and Russia, with trade repercussions and possible military action; and the slowing Chinese economy.

New Zealand investors closely watch the overnight behaviour of Wall Street, and other global markets, for a lead each day. What will happen when the US ends its economic stimulus from October with consequences for its dollar, and global credit, bond and share markets? Credit Suisse predicts the S&P 500 index will manage a further 5 per cent gain to 2120 by December. Conversely, the coming round of company results for the June year, starting this month, has the potential to lift confidence.

Key companies - including Freightways, Fletcher Building, Contact and Spark - are due to announce. No nasty surprises are expected, but bad news will not be welcome.

Most analysts will concentrate on comments on how directors see the outlook for the coming year.

- BusinessDay

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