The New Zealand sharemarket started the day with a small rise, following a solid end to last week in the United States where the Standard & Poor's 500 index chalked up a seventh straight week of gains.

About 10.15am the benchmark NZX-50 index was up 0.64 points to 3370.53, but a few minutes earlier it had been at a 28-month high above 3377 points. On Friday the index had slipped 3.8 points.

Freightways was up 3c to be at an eight-month high of $3.28, Sky City gained 4c to $3.32 early, and The Warehouse lifted 3c to $3.59. Telecom slipped 1c to $2.27, Fletcher Building edged up 1c to $7.95, and Contact Energy was down 1c to $6.37.

Ebos Group lost 3c to $7.35, Nuplex was down 3c to $3.50, and Hallenstein Glasson dropped 2c to $4.10.

Xero gained 13c early to $2.68, having fallen during the first two weeks of January after hitting a record $3.16 at the end of 2010.

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In the United States, stocks gained on Friday with a banks-led rally amid healthy volume after encouraging financial results from JPMorgan.

Strength in financial stocks helped offset economic reports that showed soft December retail sales and consumer sentiment dented by rising petrol prices. The market's resilience will be tested this week when a number of banks report results.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.5 per cent to 11,787.38, the S&P rose 0.7 per cent to 1293.24, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.7 per cent to 2755.30.

For the week, the Dow ended up 1 per cent, the S&P 500 was 1.7 per cent higher and the Nasdaq composite was up 1.9 per cent. United States financial markets are closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr Day.

- NZPA