New Zealand share prices fell in morning trading in response to big falls in the major markets overnight.

By 10.10 am the S&P NZX50 index was down 62 points or 1.01 per cent at 6051.73. It has stayed at a similar level throughout the morning and was down 0.9 per cent at 11.50am.

Forsyth Barr analyst James Bascand said the market had taken some confidence from a partial rebound in prices in the US.

"The US market rebounded late in the piece and the Chinese market had a tough one overnight," he said. "Looking at the screen there is a lot of red across it, but there is also a bit of green," he said.


"I think that we will trend down with global markets unless there is some positive news," Bascand said.

Shane Solly, portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management, said before the market opened that the partial recovery in the US was "cold comfort" and appeared to be driven by anticipation that there will be some central bank stimulus over the next 24 hours.

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U.S. stocks recovered much of an early plunge, but the price of oil suffered its worst one-day drop since September.

Energy companies were pummelled as the latest fall in oil threatened more damage to an industry that has been stricken with bankruptcies, layoffs and other cutbacks.

Exxon Mobil fell 4 percent and Chevron fell 3 percent.

Crude fell below $27 a barrel, the lowest price since May 2003 and a far cry from the $100 a barrel it fetched in the summer of 2014.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 249 points, or 1.6 percent, to 15,766. It was down as much as 565 earlier.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 22 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,859. The Nasdaq composite slipped five points, or 1 percent, to 4,471.

ANZ, in a market commentary, said investor nervousness was on the cusp of turning to panic in global markets. "Those who have tried to catch falling knives are nursing some ugly wounds as commodities and equities fail to find floors," the bank said. ANZ said it was now back to watching the six C's - contagion risks, confidence, China, the currency, cost of funds, and commodity prices.

"It's ugly out there but New Zealand has some key advantages should the worst happen: a freely floating currency that is falling just as it should, plenty of monetary and fiscal firepower, and not a lot of foreign currency-denominated debt," the bank said.

Hear CNN Business anchor Richard Quest speak to Mike Hosking on world markets and what's happening at the World Economic Forum in Davos:

Watch: World Oil Prices Plunge:

Another plunge in the price of crude oil sent stocks sharply lower on Wednesday, bringing the market to its lowest level in nearly two years.