Goodman Property (GMT) was one of the few standout companies listed on the New Zealand stock exchange today, with 67 other companies falling in share price and the sharemarket index dropping by 35.4 points by 5pm.

The benchmark NZSX-50 index closed down 1.26 per cent at 2776.12. Turnover was 51.6 million shares worth $140.5m. There were 23 rises and 67 falls among the 113 stocks traded.

Most listed companies were treading water on a "sea of red", David Price from Forsyth Barr's equities desk said.

"Probably the one standout factor was GMT, after their result today, which was taken very positively, but the rest of the market was treading water really," he told NZPA.

Goodman Property closed at 82, up 2.5 per cent or 2c, with 2 million shares traded.

Telecom closed at 259, losing 4c. Fletcher Building closed at 656, down 15c. Contact Energy was 599, down 6c. SkyCity closed at 285 with no change.

Other shares to fall today included NZ Refining Co, down 14c to 666, The Warehouse, down 14c to 375, and Steel & Tube down 5c to 295.

Tower fell 5c to 159, Pike River Coal fell 3c to 105, NZ Oil & Gas fell 3c to 150 and Hallenstein Glasson fell 6c to 259.

The New Zealand sharemarket tumbled in early trade, following the lead of equities in the United States where a gloomy retail sales report revived recent anxiety about the economy.

In the US, stocks tumbled after sales at retailers fell for a second straight month in April, breaking a string of more upbeat reports that had suggested the economic slump was abating and fuelling a two-month rally.

Investors sold off shares across the board. Retailers fell, led by a nearly 5 per cent drop in Target, while manufacturers, home builders and commodity companies stumbled.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.2 per cent to 8284.89, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 2.7 per cent to 883.92, and the Nasdaq Composite Index gave up 3 per cent to 1664.19.