Midday: Aus shares retreat early

Market Reports

Australian shares have followed US markets lower as the Federal Reserve’s latest round of monetary easing was criticised by the central bank’s own member and renewed concerns about Europe’s debt crisis plagued investors overnight. Mining stocks have pushed shares 0.5 per cent down at noon. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 20 points down at 4,353. On the futures market the SPI is 27 points lower. 
 
Company news
 
Malaysian casino operator Genting has confirmed it has sold its 4.8 per cent stake in Echo Entertainment Group Limited (ASX:EGP) at $3.00 per share. Genting said last week it wanted to rationalise its investment portfolio following a review of the company. Shares in Echo are trading down 1.05 per cent at $3.78. 

Shares in takeover target Alesco Corporation Limited (ASX:ALS) have been placed in a trading halt as fresh talks with long time suitor DuluxGroup Limited (ASX:DLX) reopen today. The Chairman of both companies are scheduled to meet over the paint maker’s hostile $210 million bid. Dulux announced it had gained 50.1 per cent support from Alesco Corporation after the market closed last week. Shares in Alesco last traded at $2.00.

Best and worst performers 

The best performing sector is health care gaining 56 points to 10,217. Shares in ResMed (ASX:RMD) have risen 1.69 per cent and trading at $3.91. Shares in Sonic Healthcare and CSL are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is materials, falling 131 points to 9,757. Shares in Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) have fallen 5.03 per cent, trading at $0.76. Shares in Arrium and Atlas Iron are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar 

Gold is trading at $US1,765 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.037.