RTTNews - The New Zealand stock market opened flat on Thursday, following a lack-luster overnight lead from Wall Street, where stocks ended the day's trading near the break-even mark.

The benchmark NZX 50 index rose marginally by 2.46 points or 0.08% to 3,093.35 shortly after the market opened for the day, while the broader NZX All Capital index added 3.66 points or 0.12% to 3,136.00.

The New Zealand share market pushed higher on Wednesday, with the benchmark NZX-50 index gaining 10.4 points or 0.3 percent to close at 3,090.9. Trading volume was reported by the NZ Stock Exchange at 45.4 million shares valued at NZ$88.2 million. There were 38 stocks closing higher, 40 were lower and 37 unchanged.

Overseas, U.S. stocks finished Wednesday's session little changed, with the day's trading marred by choppy movement despite largely positive news on the economic front. The major averages closed only slightly higher after turning in another lackluster trading session.

Some traders remained on the sidelines ahead of the Thursday's weekly jobless claims report, which is expected to show a modest decrease in first-time claims for unemployment benefits.

Some of the day's early upside came on the heels of data on new home sales, which increased by much more than expected in the month of July, according to a report released by the Commerce Department.

The report showed that new home sales surged up by 9.6 percent to an annual rate of 433,000 in July from the revised June rate of 395,000. Economists had been expecting sales to edge up to 390,000 from the 384,000 originally reported for the previous month.

Some positive sentiment was also generated by a report from the Commerce Department showing a much bigger than expected increase in durable goods orders in the month of July, with the growth largely due to a substantial rebound in orders for transportation equipment.

In other news, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart said earlier today that although he believes the worst of the economic downturn has passed, the economic recovery will be slow and will contribute to a protracted period of high unemployment.

The major U.S. averages showed a slight upward move going into the close, ending the day just above the unchanged line. The Dow closed up by 4.23 points at 9,543.52, the Nasdaq gained 0.20 points to finish at 2024.43 and the S&P 500 rose by 0.12 to 1,028.12.

Crude oil dropped for a second straight day on the New York Mercantile Exchange Wednesday, but came off the lows of the day after earlier hitting below $71. Investors considered a surprise gain in weekly inventories reported by the Energy Information Administration.

Light sweet crude oil for October delivery fell to $71.43 per barrel, down 62 cents on the day. Prices had hit as low as $70.67 after hitting a 10-month intraday high of $75 yesterday.

The EIA report indicated that the crude oil inventories increased by 200,000 barrels in the week ended August 21. Experts had forecast a decline in crude oil supplies of 2.7 million barrels. Inventories are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year at 343.8 million barrels.

On the currency front, the New Zealand dollar was buying US68.08c by about 8 am on Thursday, compared to US68.68c at 5pm on Wednesday. The kiwi had touched a high of US68.94c during the night.

In the economic calender for Thursday, Statistics New Zealand releases its report on the country's trade balance for the month of July at 22:45 PM GMT on Thursday.

In the early trading on the New Zealand stock market on Thursday, market leader Telecom and Fletcher Building, the third best stock, remained unchanged. Meanwhile, second ranked Contact Energy eased 0.15%.

In the retail sector, Hallenstein Glasson, jewelry retailer Michael Hill International, Pumpkin Patch and Warehouse remained unchanged. TrustPower and Vector, the two energy stocks, also remained unchanged in the early trading.

Among the dual listed issues, AMP, Australia and NZ Banking Corp, APN News & Media, Lion Nathan, Telstra and Westpac Bank also remained unchanged in the lack-luster trading on Thursday morning.

Among other notable stocks, Methven and Mainfreight remained unchanged, as Infratil gained 0.58%, Nuplex eased 0.46%, Sky City added 0.30% and Sky Network Television gave up 0.45%. While Fisher & Paykel Appliances dropped 1.25%, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare posted a gain of 1.55%.

The major gainers in the day's early trading included-- ING Property Trust by 1.33%, New Zealand Refining Company by 0.95%, Pike River Coal by 2.04% and Steel & Tube Holdings by 0.31%.

The early losers on Thursday included--Auckland International Airport by 0.57%, Air New Zealand by 1.60%, Ebos by 0.68%, New Zealand Oil & Gas by 1.83%, NZ Farming Systems by 4.35%, Ryman Healthcare by 0.53% and Skellerup Holdings by 1.79%.

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