Mainfreight shares remained the star of the market today as the stock benefited from yesterday's news it had agreed to buy Netherlands-based transport and logistics firm Wim Bosman Group.

However, weaker offshore markets set the tone for the New Zealand top-50, which ended the session in negative territory.

Mainfreight hit a record high of 895 before closing at 882, up 23c or 2.7 per cent. The stock put on 47c yesterday.

"It's still got to wait for a special resolution but certainly the market's received that (acquisition) positively," said Suzanne Kinnaird of Forsyth Barr.

"It opens up Europe to Mainfreight so it does provide more growth potential, and they've done well overseas with the other offshore parts of their business already so the market has some confidence that they can do well with this as well."

The benchmark NZX-50 index closed down 8.9 points at 3421.17, wiping out much of yesterday's nearly 12-point gain.

"We were down but we probably would have expected to be, given the offshore lead and oil prices being high etc, and ... we're going to be looking towards Thursday for the (Reserve Bank's) OCR review," Ms Kinnaird said.

Retailer Briscoe Group rose nearly 3 per cent, or 4c, to 140 after reporting a 14.6 per cent rise in annual net profit, when a one-off deferred tax adjustment was excluded from the result.

The $24.1 million profit was in line with market expectations after the company had given a sales update in early February.

Among the top stocks, Fletcher Building was unchanged at 884, Telecom fell 5c to 210, Contact Energy was flat at 609 and Auckland Airport fell 2c to 226.

Casino company Sky City was down 4c at 344, while Sky TV fell 3c to 552.

Market operator NZX was up 4c at 190, Port of Tauranga was up 3c at 795, Vector rose a cent to 242 and Freightways gained 8c to 328.

Restaurant Brands fell 10c to 231 after reporting its sales fell 1.8 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Carpetmaker Cavalier was down 4c at 330, Air New Zealand dropped 2c to 124, and seafood exporter Sanford was down 5c at 495.

Across the Tasman, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 9 points at 4806.

Earlier in the United States, stocks ended lower as higher oil prices weighed on the market. Oil hit a two-year high after forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi launched airstrikes against opposition fighters at an oil port.

A sustained rise in the price of oil could hurt the economic recovery by raising transportation costs.

- NZPA