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Air New Zealand leads sharemarket lower

New Zealand shares dropped, led lower by Air New Zealand and Contact Energy while Scales Corp and Oceania Healthcare gained.

The S&P/NZX50 Index fell 16.71 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 8,344.15. Within the index, 26 stocks rose, 16 fell and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $197 million.

"It's a real mixed bag today, which is a bit surprising given Australia is up quite nicely," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene.

"Volumes haven't been too bad, institutions are doing a bit of business on the market - they'll be wanting to get things tied away before the end of the year."

Markets across Asia traded higher this afternoon, with Australia's S&P/ASX 200 up 0.7 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rising 0.5 per cent and Japan's Nikkei 400 gaining 1.4 per cent at 5:10pm New Zealand time.

On the local index, the worst performer was Air New Zealand, which dropped 3.8 per cent to $3.175, with Contact Energy down 3.6 per cent to $5.57 and Mercury New Zealand falling 3.2 per cent to $3.37.

Scales Corp was the best performer, up 3.7 per cent to $4.77. The stock has gained this month since it forecast full-year earnings to be at the upper end of guidance on the performance of its horticulture division and new acquisitions, and said earnings will rise in 2018.

"It has been having a great run lately, it's up 20 per cent in the last two weeks. The result and guidance all looked very good," Williamson said.

A2 Milk rose 2.7 per cent to $7.97, Trade Me Group gained 1.9 per cent to $4.92, and Stride Property advanced 1.7 per cent to $1.78.

Outside the benchmark index, Oceania Healthcare rose 3.1 per cent to 99c. It has agreed to buy a vacant lot in Auckland's St Heliers valued at $15.6m for an undisclosed sum, which it plans to develop into a new retirement village.

The Auckland-based company entered into an unconditional deal to buy the 8,945 square metre site, which is expected to settle at the end of the week, it said in a statement.

Oceania plans to develop an integrated retirement village and aged care facility on the site, which overlooks Auckland's harbour, and will start work on getting the appropriate consents immediately.

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