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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall with oil; OceanaGold, Fletcher slip; Air NZ gains

New Zealand shares joined in a global sell off, led by OceanaGold Corp and Fletcher Building, as investors were spooked by a falling oil price. Air New Zealand, Mainfreight and Z Energy gained on the prospect of cheaper fuel costs.

The NZX 50 Index fell 3.32 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5495.752. Within the index, 24 stocks fell, 13 rose and 13 were unchanged. Turnover was $140 million.

Overnight Wall Street and European equity markets dropped on concern the sliding price of oil, to the lowest level in more than five years, signals global economic growth is faltering. Markets across Asia joined the decline, with Japan's Nikkei 225 Index down 1.8 percent in afternoon trading, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index down 1.1 percent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index 0.6 percent weaker.

OceanaGold Corp led the benchmark index lower, sliding 6.1 percent to $2.17. Guinness Peat Group, which owns UK threadmaker Coats, dropped 4.2 percent to 46 cents. SkyCity Entertainment Group, the casino operator, fell 1.5 percent to $3.87. Fletcher Building, the building supplies and construction business, declined 1 percent to $7.97. Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, slipped 0.3 percent to $3.06.

"People are still looking at the volatility in the oil price, that's causing some concern and keeping people on edge as it is so unstable," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research with Craigs Investment Partners. "Some of those stocks are ones that international investors do represent large holdings of, so that could be offshore investors reducing their exposure to share markets generally. There is a risk off tone being seen out there."

Air NZ was the best performer on the benchmark index, advancing 2.5 percent to $2.50, on the prospect of cheaper jet fuel for the national carrier. Z Energy, the petrol station chain, rose 0.9 percent to $4.44 and Mainfreight, the courier and logistics business, gained 0.1 percent to $15.42.

"A falling oil price is good for a whole range of sectors and companies," Lister said. Air NZ is a "key beneficiary of the oil price coming down. Z Energy too, as a falling oil price is quite good for its margins."

The government's half year economic and fiscal update forecast lower inflation over the coming year, in part fuelled by falling oil prices, Lister said. Lower inflation in turn pushes out market expectations for future interest rate rises, seeing investors hunt for yield paying stocks return.

Property stocks, held for their income, gained. Precinct Properties New Zealand climbed 2.2 percent to $1.17. Argosy Property rose 0.9 percent to $1.11. Kiwi Income Property Trust advanced 0.8 percent to $1.255.

"With oil prices having fallen so much, everyone's inflation forecasts look too high," Lister said. "Against that backdrop it doesn't look like the Reserve Bank will raise interest rates anytime soon, quite possibly not till 2016, which adds to the case for all the high yielding stocks."

Goodman Property Trust was unchanged at $1.12 after New Zealand's largest listed property investor by market value sold Enterprise Park in Wiri for $53.2 million to an undisclosed buyer.

Tower fell 1.6 percent to $2.165 after the insurer, which sold its health, life, and investment units to focus on general insurance, talked down yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on how to value the replacement costs of a house, saying it doesn't expect a material impact on the firm's future settlement payments.

MightyRiverPower fell 1.1 percent to $3.045 after the first of the state-owned power companies to be partially privatised last year said it will quit its geothermal investments in Chile and Germany, while sticking with its interests in the US.

Outside the benchmark index, Comvita was unchanged at $3.65 after the maker of health products based on manuka honey said shareholders exercised 5.6 million of the 6.9 million of rights under its 1 for 5 offer, and the remainder will now be offered to other investors under a shortfall bookbuild. It had aimed to raise $24.4 million in the offer at $3.55 apiece.