The New Zealand sharemarket rose in early trading for 2011, with the NZX itself the star performer as it gained 7c or 4.6 per cent to $1.60 in the first few minutes after the exchange opened today.

Around 11.15am the benchmark NZX-50 index was up 18 points to 3327, after ending 2010 with a fall of 25 points on December 31, leaving the index with a gain for the year of about 2.7 per cent.

Casino operator Sky City was another early gainer to start the new year, lifting 4c to $3.28, while Auckland Airport rose 2c to $2.20, Telecom added 2c to $2.19, and Fletcher Building was up 2c to $7.68.

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In the United States, declines in oil and metals prices dragged down energy and materials shares, while concern about lower supermarket profits hit consumer stocks.

Shares of Supervalu Inc fell nearly 7 per cent after Morgan Stanley told investors to cut holdings in the stock, saying rising food costs will crimp margins. Safeway Inc and Whole Foods Market also slid.

The US market's fall followed a strong start to the new year the previous day and a robust rally through the end of 2010.

Prliminary data put the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.2 per cent to 11,691.33, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was off 0.1 per cent to 1270.17, and the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.4 per cent to 2681.25.

Blue chip stocks had edged higher in late trading after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting showed it registered moderate improvement in the US economy and saw no reason to modify its major bond-buying programme.

- NZPA