Midday: ASX rallies on US deal optimism

Market Reports

As Washington hones in on a long awaited debt deal, Australian shares have rallied in early trade, opening more than 1 per cent stronger and remains strongly higher at noon. Energy and Materials stocks have led the gains locally, as all the major sectors bask in positive territory. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 53 points up at 5,261. On the futures market the SPI is 47 points higher. 
 
Economic news 
 
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that business finance commitments rose 7 per cent to $34.4 million in August, from $32.2 million in July. Meanwhile, personal lending commitments slipped 2.6 per cent to $7.8 million, from $8 million in June. 
 
The RBA has released the minutes from its October board meeting, repeating that it retains the option of further rate reductions as policy makers assess the impact of the already substantial policy stimulus on the Australian economy. The central bank repeated that-
 
“The effect of low interest rates was evident across a range of indicators and had further to run.’’ 
 
As a result, the board concluded that-
 
"Members agree the bank should again neither close off the possibility of reducing rates further nor signal an imminent intention to reduce them.’’
 
Company news
 
RHG Limited (ASX:RHG) has entered a trading halt ahead of an announcement regarding a further takeover proposal from the Resimac and Australian Mortgage Acquisition Company syndicate. RHG says it is not clear whether it will accept the proposal, having last week received an addendum to a rival bid from Pepper Australia and Cadence Capital Limited (ASX:CDM). Shares in RHG last traded at $0.48. 
 
Gaming company Crown Limited (ASX:CWN) shares have hit a record high in early trade after Macquarie analysts upgraded their growth outlook for its Macau operations. Macquarie upgraded the calendar 2013 growth outlook for Macau from 13 to 18 per cent, and 2014-2015 growth expectations from 8 to 12 per cent. The forecast sent Crown shares as high as $16.46. Shares in Crown are currently trading up 2.33 per cent at $16.22. 
  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Energy gaining 173 points to 13,932. Shares in Linc Energy Limited (ASX:LNC) have risen 7.44 per cent and trading at $1.30. Shares in Drillsearch Energy Limited (ASX:DLS) and AWE Limited (ASX:AWE) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Healthcare, falling 35 points to 13,699. Shares in Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC) have fallen 1.43 per cent, trading at $35.07. Shares in Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) and Ansell Limited (ASX:ANN) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,269 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9517, its highest level since mid-September, resulting from a lack of liquidity in forex markets as the US nears the end of its Columbus Day public holiday.