A takeover offer for New Zealand Farming Systems Uruguay offered some rare positive news for investors as most stocks succumbed to general weakness in international markets.

The NZX-50 index fell 21.15 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2964.60 yesterday. Across the market, there were 22 rises and 57 falls among the 110 stocks traded. Turnover was a thin $40.7 million.

Leading stocks came under pressure with Fletcher Building down 9c to $7.53 and Contact Energy down 6c to $5.68, while Telecom eased 1c to $1.88.

"We're really just following the lead of the offshore markets from Friday and also the markets that are open in Australasia today," said Grant Williamson of Hamilton Hindin Greene. "Once again we certainly have not fallen by as much as the majority of markets, so our volatility is not as high as what is happening offshore."

Shares in NZ Farming Systems Uruguay jumped 29 per cent or 12c to 53c - just 2c below the offer price launched yesterday by Singapore's Olam International for the 81.55 per cent of the company it does not own.

Although the offer is conditional and NZFSU advised shareholders to wait for a target company statement before deciding whether to sell, Williamson said investors were not expecting a competing bid.

PGG Wrightson gained 3c to 50c after it said it had entered into a lock-up agreement with Olam for its 11.5 per cent stake in NZFSU.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare dropped 5c to $2.97 - its lowest since October - while F&P Appliances added 1c to 54c. Retailers Kathmandu and The Warehouse each lost 2c - to $1.99 and $3.50 respectively.

NZ Refining dropped 11c to $3.29 as oil prices fell below US$76 a barrel, amid fears the US economy is slipping back into recession.

Other falls among top 50 stocks included SkyCity down 3c to $2.93, Steel and Tube 13c to $2.10, Tower 2c to $1.80, Auckland Airport 3c to $1.91 and Sky TV down 4c to $4.74.

NZX, which has started buying back some of its own shares, gained 5c to $1.50 and Freightways firmed 3c to $2.68.

After falls of 2.5 to 3.1 per cent in the major Wall St indices on Friday, the Australian sharemarket's leading index fell 1.5 per cent yesterday, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 1 per cent.

- NZPA