Midday: Shares slip on oil concerns

Market Reports

The Australian share market has slipped 0.2 per cent, after negative offshore leads. Uncertainty about the escalating unrest in Libya continues to push up the price of oil and chip away at sentiment, turning investors away from risk markets such as equities and commodities.      

The S&P/ASX200 index has lost 7 points and is 4,791 at noon. On the futures market the SPI is 3 points higher.

Economic news: The National Australia Bank’s business survey reported that business conditions lifted slightly to minus 2 in February from minus 6 the month before. The latest read remains under zero, the level that separates expansion from contraction. While business confidence increased 10 index points, to 14 points in February, with NAB claiming the multi-speed economy is again very evident.

Company news: Dual-listed Equinox Minerals Ltd (ASX:EQN) says its unsolicited takeover offer for Toronto-listed Lundin Mining Corporation is worth more than just the bidding price of $4.8 billion. CEO Craig Williams has told Reuters that Equinox is not only offering a 26 per cent premium for Lundin shareholders, but a far better growth profile. Equinox launched its bid for Lundin last month and is striving to remain a contender, next to Canadian rival Inmet who have proposed a nil premium merger with Lundin. Shares in Equinox Minerals have fallen 3.28 per cent at noon and are trading at $5.61.

The operator of the Australian Securities Exchange, ASX Ltd (ASX:ASX), looks to be in for some competition, with the Australian Financial Review reporting that a group backed by veteran trader Brian Price and Australia's second richest woman Angela Bennett, are gearing up to launch a separate trading market. According to the paper the Financial and Energy Exchange Ltd has applied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to create a trading market specialising in energy, commodity and environmental derivatives. Mr Price told the AFR that the demand in Asia for resources related derivatives has not been adequately catered for. Shares in ASX have slipped 0.28 per cent at noon and are trading at $36.26.

Best and worst performers: The best performing sector is Real Estate Investment Trusts lifting 2 points to 881. Shares in ING Industrial Fund have gained 0.94 per cent and are $0.535. Shares in Mirvac Group and Wesfield Group have also improved at midday. The worst performing sector is Health Care, falling 100 points to 8,655. Shares in CSL have fallen1.68 per cent to $35.12. Shares in Ansell and Sonic Health Care have also dipped at midday.

New Zealand: The NZSX50 has lost 13 points. Taking a look at the top four stocks by turnover, Fletcher Building is at the top of the list with stock down 0.34 per cent at $8.81 followed by Telecom Corporation of New Zealand, Westpac and ANZ. 

Gold and the dollar: Gold is trading at $US1432 an ounce and the Aussie dollar is buying $US1.0124.  

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