RTTNews - The New Zealand stock market opened flat on Friday, following a lack luster overnight trading session on Wall Street, where U.S. stocks closed modestly higher.

The benchmark NZX 50 index fell marginally by 0.39 points or 0.01% to 3,052.70 shortly after the market opened for the day, while the broader NZX All Capital index added 2.15 points or 0.07% to be at 3,096.46.

New Zealand shares gave up ground on Thursday. The benchmark NZX-50 index closed down 27.9 points or 0.9 percent at 3,053.1. The NZ Stock Exchange reported trading volume of 46.7 million shares worth NZ$95.5 million. There were 26 stocks closing higher, 57 were lower and 35 unchanged.

Overseas, U.S. stocks saw strong gains on Thursday, helped by some upbeat news from the manufacturing sector that helped to offset a disappointing jobs report. The major averages all finished in positive territory by solid margins, extending their gains for a third straight session.

Some buying interest was generated by the release of a report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve saying that manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region showed some signs of stabilization.

The Philly Fed said its index of current activity rose to 4.2 in August from a negative 7.5 in July, with a positive reading indicating growth in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a negative 2.0.

With the bigger than expected increase, the index rose above zero for the first time since September of 2008 and reached its highest level since November of 2007.

Separately, research group the Conference Board said that its leading economic indicators index increased for the fourth consecutive month in July, signifying a likely improvement in economic conditions in the near term. The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent in July following a 0.7 percent increase in June.

Earlier, the Labor Department released a report showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased to 576,000 in the week ended August 15th from the previous week's revised figure of 561,000.

The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 550,000 from the 558,000 originally reported for the previous week. Despite the recent concerns regarding the battered labor market, the disappointing data saw little reaction.

On the earnings front, traders also digested quarterly results from Sears Holdings (SHLD), NetApp (NTAP), PetSmart (PETM), Rio Tinto Group (RTP) and Heinz (HNZ), among others.

The major U.S. averages reached new highs for the session in the final hour of trading, but they gave back some ground going into the close. The Dow closed up by 70.89 points or 0.8 percent at 9,350.05, the Nasdaq climbed by 19.98 points or 1 percent to 1,989.22 and the S&P 500 rose by 10.91 points or 1.1 percent to 1,007.37.

With traders doing some profit taking, the price of oil saw some weakness on Thursday after showing a substantial upward move in the previous session. Disappointing employment data inspired some traders to cash in the on yesterday's gains.

After ending Wednesday's trading up nearly $3 a barrel, crude for October delivery ended the session down $0.92 at $72.91 a barrel. At the same, the less active September oil contract edged up $0.12 to $72.54 a barrel in its last day before expiring.

On the currency front, the New Zealand dollar was buying US67.72c by about 8 am on Friday, after bouncing between that level and US67.25c during the night.

In the economic calender for Friday, Statistics New Zealand releases its data on visitor arrivals in New Zealand for the month of July at 22:45 PM GMT, and its report on credit card spending for July at 03:00 AM GMT.

In the early trading on the New Zealand stock market on Friday, market leader Telecom fell 1.50%, as second ranked Contact Energy eased 0.32% and Fletcher Building, the third best stock, added 0.90%.

In the retail sector, Hallenstein Glasson dropped 1.75% and Pumpkin Patch gave up 1.63%, as jewelry retailer Michael Hill International and Warehouse remained unchanged. Among energy stocks, TrustPower remained unchanged, as Vector added 0.49%.

Among the dual listed issues, AMP, Australia and NZ Banking Corp, APN News & Media, Lion Nathan, Telstra and Westpac Bank remained unchanged on Friday morning.

Among other notable stocks, Infratil dropped 1.13%, Mainfreight added 1.02%, Methven collected 1.35%, Nuplex advanced 1.40%, Sky City eased 0.30%, Sky Network Television gained 0.43% and Steel & Tube Holdings surged 1.61%. While Fisher & Paykel Appliances jumped 3.80%, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare slipped 1.23%.

The major gainers in the day's early trading included-- AMP NZ Office Trust by 1.25%, ING Medical Properties Trust by 0.85%, New Zealand Refining Company by 0.79%, Property For Industry by 0.94%, PGG Wrightson by 3.53%, Pike River Coal by 0.88% and Rakon by 2.17%.

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