Midday: Aus shares lower in choppy trade

Market Reports

Following mixed offshore leads, the Australian share market has had a choppy start to the day. The local bourse dipped into negative territory at open, moved briefly onto positive ground after the release of better than expected jobs data, but is again weaker at noon.

The S&P/ASX200 index is 9 points lower at 4,596 at noon. On the futures market the SPI is down 13 points.

Economic news

Australia’s construction sector has shrank for the 13th consecutive month, that is according to the Australian Industry Group and Housing Industry Association's survey of more than 150 firms. The performance of construction index dropped 3.8 points to 35.8 in June, coming in yet again under 50, the level that separates expansion from contraction. However, the Australian Bureau of Statics job data has come in above expectations. According to the ABS, the economy added 23,400 jobs in June, more than double the jobs added the month before. The unemployment rate has remained steady at 4.9 per cent. 

Company news

Shares in News Corporation (ASX:NWS) have fallen this morning amid rising controversy over the media company’s British operations. Following reports News Corp’s British tabloid paper, News of the World, conducted phone-hacking and made payments to police to generate stories, an investigation was launched. Investors appear to be following advertisers who have reportedly threatened to boycott the publication. Shares in News Corp have fallen 3.09 per cent, and are trading at $16.64.

Responding to media speculation, Austar United Communications Ltd (ASX:AUN) has cautioned that there is no assurance Foxtel’s bid for the regional pay-TV provider will be formalised, as some reports suggest, as soon as today. In May Foxtel launched a bid worth almost $2 billion for Liberty Global’s 54 per cent stake in Austar. The deal requires shareholder and regulatory approval. Austar has again today warned that, in light on the conditional nature of the proposal, there is no assurance the proposal will lead to a done deal. Shares in Austar United Communications have added 0.38 per cent, and are trading at $1.335.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Health Care, gaining 55 points to 8,424. Shares in Mesoblast have added 2.72 per cent and trading at $8.69. Shares in CSL and Cochlear are also higher. The worst performing sector is Consumer Discretionary easing 6 points to 1,364. Shares in News Corp have fallen 3.09 per cent and trading at $16.64. Shares in Village Roadshow and Cash Converters are also down at noon.

New Zealand

The NZSX50 is 11 points lower. Taking a look at the top four stocks by turnover, Fletcher Building is at the top of the list with stock down 1.19 per cent at $8.31 followed by Telecom Corporation of New Zealand, Westpac and Sky Network Television.

Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,528 an ounce. The Australian dollar is buying $US1.0742 cents.  

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