Shares in healthcare investor and operator Abano fell nearly 2 per cent in early trading after the company said it was expecting second half earnings to be softer than planned.

Shares in Abano, which also announced it was altering its annual dividend policy for the financial year to May 2010, were down 10c early to $5.30.

Among stocks rising early was Mainfreight, whose shares were at their highest level in nearly 18 months, gaining 5c to $6.30 early today on top of a 12c gain yesterday.

The wider New Zealand sharemarket slipped in early trading, with the NZX-50 index dropping 3.68 points to 3245.97. Yesterday the index ended down 1.5 points, but during the day reached its highest level in more than 10 weeks, just shy of 3268.

Other shares losing ground early included Port of Tauranga, down 4c to $6.96, and Contact Energy down 3c to $6.15.

Southport shares shot up 30c, or nearly 12 per cent, to $2.85, but only on low volume.

***

In the United States, stocks rose in a slow session on data showing more stabilisation in the economy, while Apple rallied on a report that it was developing a new iPhone.

Apple's stock hit an all-time record closing high of US$235.83, up 1.5 per cent, after the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was developing a new iPhone to work on Verizon Communications' mobile network.

A stronger-than-expected report on consumer confidence lent some support to consumer-oriented companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.1 per cent to end at 10,907.42, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index added just 0.05 of a point to 1173.27, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.3 per cent to close at 2410.69.

- NZPA