Midday: Aus shares 0.6% down at noon

Market Reports

The Australian share market started the week softer ahead of an avalanche of economic indicators and is 0.6 per cent down at noon, with the market being weighed down by the glut of companies trading ex-dividend, headed by BHP. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 28 points down at 5,058. On the futures market the SPI is 17 points lower. 
 
Economic news

The TD Securities - Melbourne Institute’s Inflation gauge was flat in February following a 0.6 per cent rise in January. Consumer prices were unchanged in the month, with rises in vehicle fuel and fruit and vegetable being offset by drops in holiday and travel accommodation. In the year to February rose 2.4 per cent, within the Reserve Bank’s 2 – 3 per cent inflation target range. 
 
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says Company profits fell by 0.9 per cent in the December quarter, slightly ahead of analyst expectations of a 1 per cent fall.
 
Also from the ABS, Building approvals slipped against expectations for the second consecutive month in January. The number of buildings approved fell 2.4 per cent to 12,920, below analyst expectations of a 2.8 per cent rise. 
 
Company news 
 
Kathmandu Holdings Limited (ASX:KMD) chairman James Strong has been remembered as a beautiful man and a great loss following his death on the weekend, aged 68. Mr Strong was CEO of Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) between 1993 and 2001. Newly appointed interim Kathmandu chairman John Harvey says Mr Strong’s loss will be felt throughout the business community. Shares in Kathmandu are trading down 0.77 per cent at $1.93. 
 
IT company Hansen Technologies Limited (ASX:HSN) has acquired Australian energy market software company Utilisoft, a subsidiary of UK based Utiligroup Limited. CEO Andrew Hansen says Utilisoft’s product offering, electricity and gas market industry focus, as well as its Australian customer base, is entirely complimentary with Hansen. Shares in Hansen Technologies are trading down 1.19 per cent at $0.83. 
  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Real Estate Investment Trusts gaining 5 points to 1,029. Shares in Goodman Group (ASX:GMG) have risen 1.51 per cent and trading at $4.70. Shares in Mirvac Group (ASX:MGR)and CFS Retail Property Trust(ASX:CFX) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Materials, falling 218 points to 10,368. Shares in Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI) have fallen 4.66 per cent, trading at $1.13. Shares in Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited (ASX:SAR) and OZ Minerals Limited (ASX:OZL) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,580 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.018.