New Zealand shares were dragged lower by global nuclear tension, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Sky Network TV hit hardest, while Hallenstein Glasson rose on positive earnings.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index dropped 70.60 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 7719.11. Within the index, 37 stocks fell, eight rose and five were unchanged. Turnover was $132 million.

The local market was weak all day after nervousness about nuclear tensions between North Korea and the US dragged global equities down overnight, with Wall Street's "fear gauge" - the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX - jumping 44 per cent to 16.04, the highest it has been since US President Donald Trump was elected on November 8 last year.

F&P Healthcare was the worst performer, down 2.8 per cent to $11.10, while Sky TV dropped 2.8 per cent to $3.16 and CBL Corp declined 2.7 per cent to $3.63.

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"We saw a wee bit of buying come back into the marketplace. It was down 1 per cent earlier in the day," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "There was quite a major turnaround in Fletcher and Spark after about mid-day when Australian investors started coming online, which was a good reason for the overall improvement in the market, but apart from those two it is pretty much red ink across the board from other large listed companies."

Spark New Zealand was the best performer, up 1.2 per cent to $3.915, while Fletcher Building dropped 0.6 per cent to $7.92, after falling as low as $7.82 in the first hour.

The benchmark index has been hitting record highs recently, and is still up 13 per cent so far this year, and Williamson said today could just be some buyers taking profit ahead of the mid-year reporting season.

"If the market does have a correction on relatively light volume it shows there's not a lot of selling, just a case of buyers being patient and sitting back a bit," he said.

All three companies reporting on Monday joined in today's sell-off. Contact Energy fell 1.3 per cent to $5.38, Heartland Bank declined 1.1 per cent to $1.86 and Freightways was down 0.6 per cent to $8.10.

Outside the benchmark index, Hallenstein Glasson Holdings gained 3.1 per cent to $3.29. The clothing retailer posted a 7 per cent increase in annual sales and said profit was up about 25 per cent on the previous year.