10% drop takes US into ‘correction’ territory, but local reaction muted.

The New Zealand sharemarket has been let off lightly from the firestorm enveloping world share prices, which pushed the all-important US market into "correction" territory yesterday .

By the close of Friday trading, the local market had finished just 84.77 points (1 per cent) down, in stark contrast to Wall Street's 1032-point (or 4.15 per cent) decline as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial index.

Another measure of Wall Street's performance - the S&P 500 index - ended the US session down 100 points or 3.8 per cent, to a two-month low, wiping out a rebound earlier in the week.

The S&P 500 is now 10.2 per cent down from its January high - thereby fitting the definition of a market correction.


By contrast, the NZX-50 is now 4.3 per cent down from its record high, set on January 5 this year, of 8455.55.

Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, said the New Zealand market had held up well, considering the fallout in world markets, and that it was still far from being in the 10 per cent correction territory.

However fund managers said the local market's reaction to heightened volatility on world markets was skewed by the fact that Fletcher Building - a major constituent of the NZX-50 - is in a trading halt pending a review of key projects.

The building materials and construction company said this week that the review was expected to show further material losses than already signalled, which would then breach one or more of its banking covenants.

Fletcher Building has said it expects the trading halt to continue until Monday morning.

JBWere equity manager Rickey Ward said gyrations on world markets were making investors jumpy.

"You get the feeling that people are somewhat nervous - sometimes the headlines are frightening for some people," he said.

"Our view was that the market felt fairly valued - and that's probably being generous to the local market - and that you cannot expect to keep getting 20-odd per cent gains every year from markets that have earnings growth of perhaps 6 or 7 per cent," he said. "We consider it to be a bit of a re-set, but it's not the end of the world.

"It's not a recession and I think most people are looking at it that way."

Ward said he expected Fletcher Building's issues with its bankers to be resolved by Monday, although more weakness in the share price was likely on the day.

"This is not a solvency issue - Fletcher Building is not going belly-up. This is just a banking covenant and I think a satisfactory resolution will be reached with the banks."

Wall Street's ructions coincided with another turbulent day on US bond markets, with the bellwether US 10-year treasury bond nearing 2.90 per cent before retreating to 2.82 per cent.

US and major international markets have been volatile since data last week suggested inflation, and interest rates, may finally be on the move in the world's biggest economy, after an extended post-GFC period of very low inflation and interest rates.

The US sharemarket started to tank last Friday, when data came out showing strong jobs and wages growth, which stoked expectations that the US Federal Reserve may raise interest rates more quickly than previously thought.

Ward said movements in the US sharemarket had a "mechanical" feel to them and there was a strong suggestion that they could have been driven by algorithm-based computer program trading.

In New Zealand and Australia, some stock movements appeared to have been triggered by margin calls - when investors who borrow to buy shares are called on to up the ante to cover possible losses - which in turn may have triggered weakness.