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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise; Summerset gains on 1Q sales

New Zealand shares rose, paced by Summerset Group Holdings after it posted record first quarter sales. SkyCity Entertainment Group and A2 Milk Co fell as the strong kiwi dollar weighed on stocks with trans-Tasman exposure.

The NZX 50 Index rose 24.041 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5855.436. Within the index, 31 stocks rose, 13 fell and six were unchanged. Turnover was below average at $80 million.

Summerset gained 3 percent to $3.42 after the retirement village operator said first quarter sales of occupational rights rose 36 percent from a year earlier to 125, the highest for any first quarter. Rival operator Metlifecare led the benchmark index 3.2 percent to $4.85, while hospital investor Vital Healthcare Trust advanced 1.8 percent to $1.69. Retirement villages and healthcare providers are benefiting from an increase in average life spans, which is stoking demand from the elderly, with the number of New Zealanders aged over 65 forecast to increase by 20,000 annually.

"It's not only the ageing demographic, it's the perception of moving into a village that has changed," said James Smalley, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "When these guys bring new inventory on - bang - it just gets snapped up. For investors in that sector it is still looking very, very good."

Companies with trans-Tasman exposure fell as the New Zealand dollar flirted with parity against the Australian dollar for much of the day. This afternoon the kiwi currency retreated more than a cent after the Reserve Bank of Australia surprised the market, keeping rates on hold at 2.25 percent, after being largely expected to cut them.

A2, the milk marketing company that earns most of its income across the Tasman, was the worst performer on the benchmark index, dropping 1.8 percent to 55 cents. SkyCity, which operates the Darwin and Adelaide casinos, fell 1 percent to $4.09, paring an intra-day drop to as low as $4.04.

"The question will be, if the dollar is sustained at these high levels against the Australian, what impact that will have on our economy long term," Smalley said. "It's certainly quite painful for exporters into Australia at the moment."

NZX rose 1.8 percent to $1.12. The Wellington-based stock market operator said the total number of trades increased 5.1 percent to 124,598 in March from a year earlier, while the value traded rose 14 percent to $3.7 billion.

Meanwhile, NZX also launched three new exchange traded funds giving investors exposure to Australia's resource and financial sector and dividend-paying New Zealand stocks. The Australia Resources Fund was quoted at $3.42, the Australian Financials Fund was $8.48, and the NZ Dividend Fund at $1, although the NZX website showed no volume for any of the new funds.

Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, rose 0.5 percent to $3.065. Fletcher Building, the construction and building supplies firm, fell 0.7 percent to $8.37.

Outside the benchmark index, Veritas Investments was unchanged 89 cents after the food and beverage investor responded to media reports about the financial health of its Mad Butcher brand by saying the liquidation of four of its franchisee-operated budget meat outlets this year is a coincidence. Since the start of the year the Massey, Glenfield, Rotorua and Kapiti Mad Butcher stores have all been placed into liquidation, and all but Rotorua have been taken back into Veritas ownership.

Pyne Gould Corp was unchanged at 34 cents. The asset management firm controlled by managing director George Kerr has been censured by the NZ Markets Disciplinary Tribunal for its second breach of corporate governance rules in recent months. Pyne Gould's 2014 accounts are being looked into by the Financial Markets Authority.