Key Points:

The New Zealand sharemarket closed lower today but its performance in the face of plunges in global equities markets won praise from local brokers.

Asian equities markets posted big losses today after Wall Street suffered its steepest decline in two months. The market mood was said to be sour.

In New Zealand, the benchmark NZSX-50 index closed down 11.963 points at 3336.178, equal to a 0.357 per cent decline. The Australian market closed down 2.06 per cent.

"Our sharemarket has been supported extremely well today considering some 2 to 3 per cent falls in offshore markets," said Grant Williamson, partner at Hamilton Hindin Greene.

He said a sharp fall in the New Zealand dollar helped the market, particularly export stocks. There was also generally a flight to quality.

Telecom recovered from a dip to a 15-1/2- year low of 309 to close up 3c at 315.

"I think investors are saying Telecom has just fallen enough now and all the bad news is priced in," Mr Williamson said. Telecom today halted its dividend reinvestment plan and a plan to buy back shares.

Heavyweight Fletcher Building was down 5c at 755 while similar stock Contact Energy was up 1c at 836.

Briscoe Group was untraded after announcing a 70 per cent fall in interim profit.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was unchanged at 324. Infratil eased 3c to 223 and Tourism Holdings was down 4c at 136. The Warehouse eased 9c to 322. Mainfreight lost 5c to 700.

Port of Tauranga rose 5c to 700 and Sanford 10c to 620.

Turnover was worth $126.35m.

The trigger for the decline in the US stock market was weekly government data that showed an unexpected jump in the number of filings for jobless benefits, while a report by ADP Employer Services showed private employers cut 33,000 jobs in August.

Financial stocks were hammered, after Bill Gross, manager of the world's biggest bond fund, Pimco, said that to halt what he called "a financial tsunami" the US government should give the Treasury the right to buy debt and other assets. Gross said he was staying on the sidelines of the markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.99 per cent to 11,188.23, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 2.99 per cent to 1236.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 3.2 per cent to 2259.04.

- NZPA