The New Zealand sharemarket had a quiet start to the financial year today.

A promising start saw the benchmark NZSX-50 index up 27.6 points soon after opening, following gains in United States equities and Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard's unusual step of issuing a statement expressing his concern at a recent rise in long-term wholesale interest rates.

But it lost ground after that before a slight rally late in the day saw the NZSX-50 down 21.152 points, or 0.82 per cent, to 2569.242.

Turnover was worth $84.4 million.

It was a reasonably quiet start to the new financial year and with a lack of domestic news all eyes would focus on what was happening offshore, said Grant Williamson director of Hamilton, Hindin, Greene.

Fletcher Building's surprise announcement today of a major capital raising would be pretty well accepted by the market as it would place them in stronger position, Mr Williamson said.

The announcement also created selling in other stocks as institutions looked to take up their placements.

Fletcher Building was up 20c to 620 before it was placed in a trading halt.

There was still a bit of pressure on Contact Energy again today, it was down 16c to 556 with talk of regulation, although TrustPower was unchanged at 705. Pike River Coal was down 7c to 83. NZ Farming Systems Uruguay lost down 5c to 69 and Freightways Group slipped 17c to 278.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances dropped 2c to 47, Ryman Healthcare was down 5c to 136 and The Warehouse lost 10c to 348.

Telecom was again today's most heavily traded stock and rose 2c to 230.

Tourism Holdings gained 4c to 46, Michael Hill International was up 4c to 49 and Nuplex rose 6c to 81.

Meanwhile, Asian stock markets were mixed, with Hong Kong's index down 1 per cent, amid more evidence of decay in the region's two largest economies, Japan and China.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 144.24 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 8253.77, while South Korea's Kospi added 1.6 per cent to 1225.03.

Among down markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed its gains to fall 139.45 points, or 1 per cent, to 13,436.57. Australia and Singapore benchmarks also declined.

In the US overnight, the Dow rose 86.90 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 7608.92, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index added 10.34 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 797.87. European benchmarks also closed higher.

- NZPA