The New Zealand sharemarket closed strongly today, with significant rises among top stocks after solid economic data out today and gains on global markets.

The benchmark NZX-50 index ended up 32.68 points, or 1 per cent, at a three-month high of 3308.91.

Telecom continued to recover from recent historic lows, closing up 8c, or 3.7 per cent, at 224.

"It's a stock that's been under pressure for a number of weeks, so it seems to be a bit of a relief rally going on with some pretty good volume as well," said Hamilton Hindin Greene director Adrian Vance.

Fletcher Building rose 8c to 842, Auckland International Airport was up 3c at 200 on heavy volume, Sky City rose 6c to 326, and Sky TV was up 2c at 534.

Air New Zealand hit a two-year high today of 140 before closing at 138, up 7c or more than 5 per cent.

The airline's stock jumped after favourable analyst reports ahead of the Rugby World Cup next year and amid a recovery in the world economy.

"It hasn't done a lot for a period of time, and I guess that's a combination of being an airline and also the fact that it's majority owned by the Government," Mr Vance said.

Other big movers were Mainfreight, up 10c at 649, NZ Refining, down 18c at 380, Contact Energy, down 4c at 643, and seafood exporter Sanford, down 6c at 446.

There was mixed news from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion today, which showed soaring business optimism in the March 2010 quarter, despite a shallower than expected recovery. A seasonally adjusted net 36 per cent of firms expected conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to 23 per cent in the December quarter.

In other domestic news, world prices for New Zealand's commodity exports soared to a record high last month, with the ANZ Commodity Price Index posting its 13th consecutive monthly gain.

Across the Tasman, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 0.9 per cent at 4950.5 after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised its official cash rate by 25 points. New Zealand's central bank is widely expected to raise its rate in June.

"There's some good economic data, but there's not a huge amount of confidence in terms of the overall New Zealand market and I think the lack of volatility and the lack of volume is tending to take investors to other markets," Mr Vance said.

Earlier on Wall Street, US stocks rose after data showed the economy added the largest number of jobs in three years.

Shares of natural resources companies led the gains on expectations that an improving economy would drive up demand.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index both finished at fresh 18-month closing highs. The Nasdaq ended at a 19-month closing high.

- NZPA