New Zealand's share market lifted sharply in early trade today, making a 10 points gain on yesterday's lacklustre market, but then appeared to run out of steam.

The benchmark NZX-50 index was up 10.602 points at 2747.491 in early trade, after closing 1.393 points down on Monday at 2736.889, its lowest level since early May.

But after that initial burst of activity, it struggled to make further gains, and finished the day at 2748.501, up 11.612 points on yesterday - a 0.424 per cent lift.

This was despite Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard's saying in a speech at Napier that the New Zealand economy would recover from the global downturn ahead of most of its trading partners.

Only 25.274 million shares valued at $66.85m were traded.

The index's cornerstone stock Telecom gained 1c to 267, Contact rose 2c to 575, and Sky City gained 2c to 264.

Fletcher Building finished 2c up at 658, after flirting with prices around 660 in the wake of yesterday's heavy trading on the back of its participation in a $406m contract for a tunnel under Victoria Park in Auckland.

Other shares to gain were NZ Refining, up 10c to 695, Auckland Airport, up 3c to 154 and Telstra, up 8c to 428. Falls included Freightways, down 4c to 2.80, and Mainfreight, down 7c to 412, while fisher Sanford fell 5c to 515. Trustpower fell 2c to 748, and Vector fell 1c to 203. Rakon fell 1c to 144.

Australian stocks lifted nearly 3 per cent today, led by global miner BHP Billiton, but the extremely thin volumes exaggerated gains.

The market was tracking overnight gains in US stocks, when an upbeat analyst's forecast about banks raised hopes that banks might post decent earnings in the coming results season.

The S&P/ASX 200 index stood 111.1 points higher at 3848.6 at 4pm NZ time, after falling 1.5 per cent the previous

day.

In the US, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 185.16 points, or 2.27 per cent, to end at 8331.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 21.92 points, or 2.49 per cent, at 901.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 37.18 points, or 2.12 per cent, at 1793.21.

- NZPA