The New Zealand sharemarket started firmly after leading shares Fletcher Building and Telecom rebounded from falls yesterday.

Shortly after the market opened, Telecom was up 7c to $2.59 having fallen 6c yesterday, while Fletcher gained 9c early today to $8.31 after falling 18c yesterday.

Those falls weighed on the market yesterday, with the benchmark NZX-50 index ending the day down 10.4 points. With the two leading shares gaining at the start of trading today the index was up 14.35 points to 3155.54 around 10.10am.

Other shares gaining early today included Cavalier Corporation, up 5c to $2.50, Freightways up 3c to $3.03, NZ Refining up 3c to $4.93, Tower up 2c to $1.70, NZ Farming Systems Uruguay up 2c to 48, and Methven up 2c to $1.70.

Shares losing ground early included Nuplex down 2c to $2.36, Property for Industry down 2c to $1.17, and Telstra down 5c to $3.98.

Shares in dual-listed bank Westpac were placed in a trading halt after the New Zealand market closed yesterday, pending judgment from the High Court at Auckland in a case involving disputed tax on structured finance transactions.

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In the United States, investors booked profits after two days of strong gains and turned cautious at the approach of earnings season.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.1 per cent at 9725.58, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.3 per cent at 1057.58, and the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 0.3 per cent at 2110.33.

- NZPA