Midday: ASX up on health gains

Market Reports

Despite mixed offshore leads the Australian share market opened slightly higher and has ascended in early trade to be 0.4 per cent higher at noon, led up by gains in the healthcare sector, as biotech giant CSL, Sonic Healthcare and Resmed all rally. Meanwhile, smaller drug tech company Phosphagenics has soared in early trade after announcing a successful phase one trial of its pain drug oxymorphone.  
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 20 points up at 5,376. On the futures market the SPI is 18 points higher. 
 
Company news 
 
Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) has told shareholders that it is prepared for further gold price declines and may even take advantage of the downturn in the precious metal. At the gold miners AGM, chairman Don Mercer said the immediate priorities are to deliver reliable low cost production, and restore the company's currently battered reputation, still smarting from the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) investigating claims of selective analyst briefings. Shares in Newcrest are trading down 0.68 per cent at $11.02. 
 
Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC)  has announced the appointment Kevin Ball as its chief financial officer, to replace the outgoing Austen Perrin from mid- December. The coal miner says Mr Perrin has opted to leave the company however will remain until early next year to ensure an orderly handover. Mr Ball has previously held senior positions at Chandler Macleod Group, Springvale Coal, Delhi Petroleum and the Milestone Group. Shares in Whitehaven are trading up 1.16 per cent at $1.75. 
  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Healthcare gaining 140 points to 14,008. Shares in Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX:SHL) have risen 2.63 per cent and trading at $15.97. Shares in Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) and Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Materials, falling 21 points to 10,030. Shares in Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) have fallen 7.86 per cent, trading at $2.11. Shares in OceanaGold Corporation (ASX:OGC) and Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,334 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9639.