RTTNews - New Zealand share markets opened slightly higher on Thursday, following overnight advances on Wall Street, where the major U.S. averages closed higher after an Energy Information Administration report boosted oil prices.

The benchmark NZX 50 index was up 7.39 points or 0.24% to 3,088.44 shortly after the market opened for the day, while the broader NZX All Capital index added 9.24 points or 0.30% to 3,132.54.

The New Zealand market, along with its Australian counterpart, were the only ones in the Asia/Pacific region to post gains on Wednesday. In New Zealand, the market finished higher, but well off its best levels of the session. The benchmark NZX-50 index gained 9.5 points or 0.3 percent to close at 3.081.0, having earlier risen to around 3,094. Trading volume was reported by the NZ Stock Exchange at 266.1 million shares, valued at NZ$269.7 million.

Overseas, U.S. stocks were able to recover from early weakness and finished notably higher on Wednesday, largely driven by a report indicating a jump in oil demand. The major averages all closed in positive territory by solid margins, further offsetting Monday's losses.

With no significant news on the economic front, the day's crude oil inventories report received extra attention. Inventories unexpectedly fell in the week ended August 14th, according to data released this morning by the Energy Information Administration.

Earlier, traders reacted to the latest set of corporate quarterly results, with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) reporting third quarter earnings of $0.91 per share after the closing bell Tuesday, beating the consensus estimate of $0.90 per share. The company expects to report fourth quarter earnings of $1.12 per share compared to the forecast of $1.07 per share.

Deere & Co. (DE) reported third-quarter net income of $0.99 per share, compared with $1.32 per share in the same period last year. The results topped Wall Street estimates of $0.57 per share. BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ) reported second quarter net income of $0.64 per share, compared to $0.61 per share in the prior year quarter. Analysts had expected the firm to earn $0.62 per share.

In other news, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, chief economist of Ford Motor Co. (F), was quoted as saying that economic indicators in the U.S are showing that a recovery is already underway and that auto sales seem to be stabilizing. Hughes-Cromwick also predicted that Ford would see an improvement in sales in 2010.

The major U.S. averages saw choppy movement in late-session dealing, finishing near their best levels of the day. The Dow closed up by 61.22 points or 0.7 percent at 9,279.16, the Nasdaq climbed by 13.32 points or 0.7 percent to 1,969.24 and the S&P 500 rose by 6.79 points or 0.7 percent to 996.46.

Crude oil soared to its best close in more than two months on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday after an Energy Information Administration report showed that U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly fell sharply in the recent week.

Light sweet crude for September settlement rallied to $72.42 a barrel, up $3.23 on the session. Prices reached as high as $72.80 earlier in the day. The September contract expires on Thursday, and the more actively-traded October crude oil jumped to $73.83 per barrel, up $2.74.

The EIA said crude oil inventories decreased by 8.4 million barrels, while analysts expected to see an increase of about 1.1 million barrels for the week. At 343.6 million barrels, however, crude oil inventories remain above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year.

On the currency front, the New Zealand dollar was buying US67.44c by about 8 am on Thursday, when compared to US67.57c at 5pm on Wednesday. During the night, the kiwi had touched a low of US66.65c against the greenback.

In the early trading on the New Zealand stock market on Thursday, market leader Telecom gained 0.74%, as second ranked Contact Energy remained unchanged and Fletcher Building, the third best stock, surged 1.25%.

In the retail sector, Hallenstein Glasson remained unchanged, as jewelry retailer Michael Hill International remained surged 4.48%, Pumpkin Patch fell 1.58% and Warehouse collected 0.24%. 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 Thursday morning.

Among other notable stocks, Infratil, Sky City, Sky Network Television and Steel & Tube Holdings remained unchanged, as Mainfreight added 0.21%, Methven collected 0.68% and Nuplex advanced 1.33%. While Fisher & Paykel Appliances gained 1.25%, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare remained unchanged.

The losers on Thursday morning included--Air New Zealand by 0.78%, New Zealand Oil and Gas by 0.61%, New Zealand Refining Company by 1.08%, Pike River Coal by 0.86% and Sanford Limited by 0.39%.

The major gainers in the day's early trading included-- Auckland International Airport by 1.18%, Goodman Property Trust By 1.03%, NZX Limited by 0.13%, Property For Industry by 0.95% and Rakon by 0.71%.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com