The New Zealand sharemarket rose modestly today with brokers noting strength in selected stocks like Vector.

Tower fell 7c to 200 on a day it traded ex a 6c dividend. Trading in Abano Healthcare was halted for a previously announced one-in-four share cancellation to be carried out. The cancellation effects a $27.3 million capital return to shareholders.

The benchmark NZX-50 index closed up 4.822 points, or 0.145 per cent, at 3334.585, having yesterday gained 5.7 points.

Turnover was 32 million shares worth $87.4 million. There were 32 rises and 34 falls.

"The market was once again lacking volume," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton, Hindin, Greene.

Fletcher Building was up 4c to 787, on the day the company's A$740 million ($960m) offer for ASX-listed building supplies firm Crane Group opened. Crane Group executives talked up their options in a media interview.

"It is typical in mergers and acquisitions to have conflicting reports depending on what side of the fence you sit on," Mr Williamson said.

Vector rose 6c to 244 and the 837,795 shares traded was good volume for the stock.

"They weakened off because it appeared they missed out on the Government's broadband initiative but the market appears to be having a rethink," Mr Williamson said.

Contact Energy rose 1c to 624, having announced after the market closed yesterday that its current managing director David Baldwin would step down in three months and rejoin parent company Origin Energy. His successor, Dennis Barnes, has worked for Origin since 1998.

Air NZ fell 1c to 152 on a day it signed a code share agreement with Virgin Atlantic. China Southern Airlines said today that it has decided to fly direct to Auckland from Guangzhou, rather than via Melbourne. The three times a week service is due to start on April 8.

Air NZ said the service complemented its services to other cities in China and did not increase competition on the Tasman.

Auckland Airport shares rose 3c to 224 as investors applauded its ability to attract new business.

Restaurant Brands was down 3c to 265, Nuplex was unchanged at 350, and Telecom rose 1c to 221.

Steel & Tube rose 7c to 227 and The Warehouse rose 7c to 351.

In the United States, energy shares helped the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 end a three-day losing streak, even as investors worried rising fuel costs will undercut economic growth.

The Dow gained 0.3 per cent to 11,671.88 while the S&P gained 0.4 per cent to 1274.48, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.3 per cent to 2716.83.

- NZPA