Market close: Sea of red as NZ shares led down by US interest-rate fears

The New Zealand sharemarket was dragged downwards by worries about a faster than expected increase in interest rates in the US amid light holiday trading.

The benchmark S&P/NZX50 closed down 1.27 per cent dropping 167.369 points to finish at 12983.010 on its second day of trading for the year.

There was $119.8m worth of trade on the main market with total volume traded 38,255,262. Only 38 stocks gained in value while 101 declined.

Shane Solly, Harbour Asset Management portfolio manager, said the New Zealand market was influenced by the US markets falling amid concerns the US Federal Reserve would hike interest rates faster than expected on top of worries about Omicron’s spread.

“People are focusing on this rapid spreading of Omicron, that is causing disruption even though thankfully the hospitalisation rates are low, people are still getting sick.”

That meant they could not get to work. Solly pointed to statistics in Australia which showed up to 25 per cent of drivers were getting sick so there were shortages of getting inventory to places.

“It may not have the potency of Delta but it is certainly causing some issues.”

But he said the big reason for the weakness in markets with a sea of red was the US Federal Reserve committee minutes came out and were quite hawkish, pointing to a faster rate of removal for stimulatory monetary policy.

“That was a bit of a surprise for markets. Markets had been anticipating a removal of the easy money, but this is harder and faster than people had expected in terms of the wording.”

Solly said markets had sold off, with the most affected stocks being those with earnings in the future.

“The tech sector got sold off and the value sector, more cyclical stocks have done slightly better.”

He said it was accelerating a trend already in place but there was a bit of wariness about whether there was more to come.

The US markets were down, with the S&P500 falling 1.9 per cent led by weakness in the technology sector. The Nasdaq fell 3.3 per cent.

News flow on the local New Zealand market had been very minimal, Solly said.

“It is all about this macroeconomic stuff – the US Federal Reserve and Omicron.”

Shares in Vulcan Steel had the biggest gain up 7.1 per cent or 73c to $11.01. Solly said the stock had benefited from an upgrade in earnings with the strong Australasian economy resulting in people building more assets like warehousing and manufacturing to cope with supply chain issues.

“The steel that Vulcan and Steel & Tube distribute is in strong demand. The steel market itself is pretty robust.”

Scott Technology rose 6.57 per cent or 22c to $3.57 while Evolve Education Group was up 5.95 per cent or 5c to 89c.

In the larger stocks shares in Restaurant Brands rose 1.37 per cent or 19c to $14.01 with investors taking the view that people may be getting take-out rather than going to restaurants. Sanford was up 0.61 per cent or 3c to $4.96 and Contact Energy shares rose 0.5 per cent or 4c to $8.

Solly said it was a very low volume day. “We are seeing very low levels of activity. So we have to be a little bit wary.”

The market’s biggest company Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was down 1.96 per cent or 0.65c to $32.50.

Digital church donation software company Pushpay Holdings was down 3.85 per cent or 0.05c to $1.25 while cinema software company Vista Group International was down 3.73 per cent or 9c to $2.32.

“It was very much reflecting this global profit-taking in technology stocks because their earnings are further out so they are more sensitive to interest rate increases, particularly the longer-term maturity bonds.”

Tourism stock SkyCity Entertainment Group was down 3.8 per cent or 12c to $3.04 and Auckland International Airport shares were down 2.79 per cent or 22c to $7.66, with people wary about mobility dropping amid the rising spread of Omicron overseas.

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