The New Zealand sharemarket edged up in early trading as leading stocks Telecom and Fletcher Building notched up small rises.

By 10.15am the benchmark NZX-50 index was up 1.35 points to 3170.29, on top of a 27.7-point lift yesterday when all the top five stocks gained.

Telecom shares were up 2c to $2.61 shortly after trading started today on top of a 7c gain yesterday, while Fletcher Building also added 2c early, to $8.32, having risen 8c yesterday.

On the other side of the ledger, another leading stock, Contact Energy fell 13c early to $5.85, and Nuplex was down 2c to $2.35.

Other stocks rising early included The Warehouse, up 5c to $4.45, NZ Refining Co up 5c to $5.05, Pike River Coal up 3c to $1.20, NZ Oil & Gas up 2c to $1.75, and Sky City up 2c to $3.25.

Shares in dual-listed bank Westpac were up 15c to $31.95, on top of a $1.10c gain yesterday even though it lost a court case against the Inland Revenue Department, involving $961 million in back taxes.

Australian bank stocks surged yesterday when strong employment data stunned investors.

Among other dual-listed shares, ANZ bank was up 10c early today to $30.10 and Telstra gained 9c to $4.00.

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In the United States, investors moved into stocks after getting encouraging readings on two of the best gauges of the US economy's health: consumer spending and corporate profits.

A closely watched gauge of sales at major retailers showed an increase of 0.1 per cent for September, still tepid but the first monthly gain in the International Council of Shopping Centres-Goldman Sachs tally since July 2008.

The upbeat mood on Wall Street began when Alcoa Inc surprised investors with its first profit in nine months, which the aluminium company attributed to cost-cutting and rising sales to automakers.

The Dow rose 0.6 per cent to 9786.87, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.8 per cent to 1065.48, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 0.6 per cent to 2123.93.

- NZPA