Midday: ASX slips on US stimulus speculation

Market Reports

Local stocks climbed back above the psychologically significant 5,000 barrier this morning but have since back-peddled. The initial jolt of enthusiasm came following gains on Wall Street as US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reassured the market America’s economic stimulus program will continue for now. But it seems traders aren’t fully convinced - local sectors are trading mixed in light volume as the search for direction continues.   

Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is trading 5 points higher at 4,987. On the futures market the SPI is 8 points higher. 
 
Economic news
 
Australian business conditions and confidence fell in the second quarter of 2013. National Australia Bank Limited's (ASX:NAB) business survey has shown the business conditions index dropped to -4 in the June quarter from -3 in the prior three months. The business confidence index dropped to -1 in the June quarter from +2 in the prior three months. NAB says, "Conditions weakened across all states in the quarter with the exception of New South Wales. Weakness was particularly evident in Western Australia where the mining slowdown is gaining traction."
 
Company news 
 
Shares in Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ) have lifted 2.96 per cent on news Australia’s biggest rail company is slashing costs. The coal hauler, formerly known as QR National, has flagged up to $230 million of cost cuts, potential job cuts and asset sales over the next two years. 
 
Shares in Billabong International Limited (ASX:BBG) are still riding high, putting on 5.97 per cent following a gain of 34 per cent yesterday. Investors are piling back into the embattled surf-wear retailer after the company struck a refinancing deal and appointed a new CEO earlier this week. 
 
Shares in Mesoblast Limited (ASX:MSB) have dipped 1.9 per cent despite the stem cell research company scoring $4.3 million from the Australian Government for adult stem cell pipeline development. 
 
Shares in Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) have slipped 2.68 per cent after the gold producer said it will defer developing the Coustons mine, forming part of the miner’s Murchison operations in Western Australia. Silver Lake has also flagged job losses as a result of the decision, which the company blames on the challenging gold price environment. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is real estate investment trusts, gaining 10 points to 1,030. Shares in Goodman Group (ASX:GMG) have risen 1.46 per cent and trading at $4.85. Shares in DEXUS Property Group (ASX:DXS) and Westfield Retail Trust (ASX:WRT) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is health care, falling 157 points to 13,373. Shares in Ansell Limited (ASX:ANN) have fallen 3.4 per cent, trading at $18.47. Shares in ResMed Inc.(ASX:RMD) and CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) are also lower. 
 
IPOs
 
Watermark Market Neutral Fund Limited (ASX:WMK) started trading today. The investment company predominantly invests in Australian securities and floated with an issue price of $1.00, opened at $0.98 and is currently trading at $0.98.    
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,274 an ounce. 
The Australian dollar is buying 91.98 US cents.