Midday: Aus shares track 0.5% higher

Market Reports

Despite weak leads from Wall Street, the Australian share market opened in positive territory and is currently tracking 0.5 per cent higher at noon. Investors have appeared to come back from the four day Christmas-break refreshed and ready to pick up some bargains, with the big banks doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, along with healthcare stocks like CSL.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 26 points higher at 5,234. On the futures market the SPI is 46 points higher. 
 
Company news

ASG Group (ASX:ASZ) says it has reinforced its position as a leading ICT provider to the Federal Government with the signing of a 4 year contract with the Department of Finance. ASG will deliver a state-of-the-art Electronic Work Environment, giving staff the flexibility to access their data and applications securely from any device. The New World deal is worth over $29 million. Shares in ASG Group are trading up 4.19 per cent at $1.12. 
 
Speedcast International Limited (ASX:SDA) has signed a definitive agreement to acquire NewCom international, a leading satellite communications service provider specialising in the south and central American regions. The company says the acquisition will strengthen its capabilities to serve and support its customers globally and grow the important South American market. Shares in Speedcast are trading up 0.76 per cent at $4.00. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Staples, gaining 1.7 per cent to 8,774. Shares in Bega Cheese have risen 8.89 per cent and trading at $6.98. Shares in Wesfarmers and Asaleo Care are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Materials, falling 0.8 per cent to 7.017.  Shares in Rio Tinto have fallen 2.63 per cent, trading at $44.74. Shares in BHP Billiton and South 32 are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,069 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7261.