Midday: Aus shares push higher

Market Reports

Following positive leads, the Australian share market opened higher and is 0.7 per cent up at noon. 
 
The banks performed strongly today and with a slight uptick in the oil price, energy stocks managed to also make gains.
 
Investors are being influenced by the potential for a cut in the Reserve Bank’s cash rate next week but there’s still no consensus on which way the RBA will lean.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 41 points up at 5,610. On the futures market the SPI is 50 points higher.

Economic news

The Reserve Bank of Australia has shown total credit growth is up by 0.5 per cent in its release of Financial Aggregates for December. Personal credit was flat while business and housing credit drove the growth.
 
Company news
 
Amid falling coal prices Whitehaven Coal (ASX:WHC) has extended its first half net loss by more than 500 per cent to hit $77.9 million for the 6 months to end of December (compared to the same period last financial year.)  The coal miner says the loss included $65.4 million in significant items after tax. Managing Director Paul Flynn says record half sales and production provide confidence that full year guidance will be met and that low cost production will help them deal with the current weakness in coal markets. Shares in Whitehaven Coal are trading down 3.85 per cent at $1.25. 
 
BC Iron Limited (ASX:BCI) has release its quarterly production figures showing the Nullagine Joint Venture has pushed back to a run rate of 6Mtpa during November and December. The iron ore miner says cost cutting was a focus and guidance for the remainder of the financial year sees all-in costs at between $54-$61 per wmt. Shipments for the quarter hit 1.38 million wmt of bonnie fines. Shares in BC Iron are trading down 1.04 per cent at $0.48 

Best and worst performers

All major sectors were up today, the best performing sector is real estate investment trusts, gaining 1.2 per cent to 1,291. Shares in Goodman Group (ASX:GMG) have risen 2.49 per cent and trading at $6.18. Shares in Stockland Limited (ASX:SGP) and GPT Group (ASX:GPT) are also stronger. 
 
The sector with the least gains is utilities, gaining 0.2 per cent to 6,315. Shares in Spark Infrastructure Group (ASX:SKI) have fallen 0.46 per cent, trading at $2.16. Shares in DUET Group (ASX:DUE) and AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGL) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,261 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7785.