Midday: ASX plunges early as gold goes cold

Market Reports

The Australian share market plunged at open following Wall Streets worst day of the year and continued commodity sell offs, with gold miners reeling from a 14 per cent price tumble over the past two sessions. The local market has pegged back a few early losses but remains 0.8 per cent down at midday. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 34 points lower at 4,934. On the futures market the SPI is 31points down. 
 
Economic news 
 
In the minutes from its April 2 board meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia says conditions appear to be improving in weaker parts of the economy such as housing and retailing. Low interest rates are boosting underperforming sectors of the economy, but further rate cuts may still be needed, according to the RBA, although it believes the full effects of recent rate cuts may take some time to flow through the economy.

Sales of new motor vehicles in Australia fell in March, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 95,113 new cars drove away in the month, down 0.6 per cent on the previous month. 
 
Company news 
 
Investment company ASF Group Limited’s (ASX:AFA) wholly owned subsidiary ASF Gold and Copper has expressed an interest in acquiring all the shares in mineral explorer ActivEX Limited (ASX:AIV). In a letter touting a possible proposal, ASF Gold and Copper says an all cash offer of 2 cents per share would represent a good outcome and an attractive price for ActiveX shareholders, with the proposal valuing the company at approximately $4.9 million. Shares in ASF Group are flat at 22 cents.
 
With gold prices among the worst affected in the current commodity carnage gripping the market, Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) shares have hit their lowest point since 2006. Australias largest listed gold producer is feeling the pinch, falling 7 per cent in early trade following a 9 per cent gold price tumble overnight.  Shares in Newcrest Mining are currently trading 6.53 per cent lower at $16.75. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Healthcare, gaining 71 points to 12,342. Shares in CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) have risen 1.46 per cent and trading at $59.66. Shares in Acrux Limited (ASX:ACR) and Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Energy, falling 305 points to 12,516. Shares in Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) have fallen 6.94 per cent, trading at $0.81. Shares in Senex Energy Limited (ASX:SXY) and Drillsearch Energy Limited (ASX:DLS) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,329 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying just over $US1.03.