Shares in Briscoe Group soared 7.9% in reaction to a strong operating statement from the retailer, while the rest of the market took a hit from a global equity market rout.
The benchmark NZX-50 index closed down 43.948 points, or 1.4%, at 3104.991, after a 2.6% fall in the Dow on Thursday US time and reflecting weak markets in Asia today.
The Dow briefly fell below the crucial 10,000 mark on Thursday as stocks suffered their worst losses in more than nine months, Reuters reported.
Escalating sovereign debt problems in Europe and an unexpected rise in jobless claims put investors on the defensive just ahead of Friday's crucial payrolls report.
"European sovereign debt worries overnight sent everything into a spiral and we've really just followed on. It's understandable," said Stuart Hardie, adviser at Craigs Investment Partners.
"There's one bright light in a gloomy day and that is Briscoe. They had solid fourth quarter sales and upbeat guidance."
Briscoe rose 10c to $1.36 after reporting a 14.3% rise in sales for the three months to January 31 would help it post a full-year profit in excess of $20 million.
Briscoe was one of 19 stocks to post gains today, while 71 stocks fell. Turnover was worth $76.3 million.
Telecom dropped 10c to $2.31, Contact Energy lost 3c to $5.81 and Fletcher Building shed 18c to $7.52.
An announcement of healthy increases in international and domestic passenger volumes in December could not stop Auckland Airport shares easing a cent to $1.95.
AMP NZ Office Trust, which yesterday reported a higher interim net profit and expressed concern that proposed tax changes would affect the commercial property sector, eased 1c to 73c.
TrustPower rose 2c to $7.34 on a day in which it released a nine month operating statement. Fisher&Paykel Healthcare rose 1c to $3.39, Methven rose 4c to $1.70, SkyTV rose 2c to $4.77 and Cavalier Carpets rose 1c to $2.78.
The Warehouse fell 7c to $3.75, Freightways fell 5c to $3.30, Infratil fell 1c to $1.62 and Air NZ fell 2c to $1.30.
Mainfreight fell 4c to $5.84, SkyCity fell 1c to $3.22 and Port of Tauranga fell 3c to $7.12.
Abano fell 7c to $5.78 and Sanford fell 11c to $4.65. ANZ fell $1.05 to $26.15.
US investors dumped banks and commodity-related shares and Wall Street's fear gauge jumped more than 20%.
"We got spoiled last year with the market going up almost non-stop after the March low," Bob Doll, global chief investment officer for equities at BlackRock, told Reuters.
"The consolidation or corrective phase is probably not over."
Worries over the ability of Greece, Portugal and Spain to pay their debts fuelled a flight from stocks to the safe-haven US dollar, which hurt commodity prices denominated in the greenback.
The unexpected increase in US weekly initial claims for state unemployment benefits pointed to stubborn weakness in the labour market, and heightened concerns ahead of Friday's employment data.