Midday: Aus shares steady ahead of RBA call

Market Reports

With Wall Street falling overnight the Australian share market opened lower and is flat at noon, with investor attention focusing on this afternoons RBA rate’s decision. Most are expecting the central bank to keep its powder dry on rates until the new year with employment remaining strong, inflation within its target range and the Aussie dollar coming off its highs of recent months. Among the major sectors, health stocks are leading the gains at this stage.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 7 points down at 5,272. On the futures market the SPI is 4 points lower. 
 
Economic news
 
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says retail sales rose above expectations in October. Retail spending went up by 0.5 per cent to $22.28 billion in the month, ahead of economist tips for a 0.4 per cent rise. The reading follows a 0.8 per cent lift in September. 
 
Company news 
 
Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) subsidiary Leighton Contractors has been selected by the New Zealand Transport Agency to deliver the $NZ1 billion Transmission Gully Motorway. Leighton Contractors forms part of the Wellington Gateway Partnership conglomerate, and its share of the Motorway contract is expected to be in excess of $NZ800 million. Shares in Leighton Holdings are trading down 1.8 per cent at $15.81. 
 
Dual listed drug delivery supplier Unilife Corporation (ASX:UNS) has announced a customised clinical product supply agreement with multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis. Unilife will supply products from one of its platforms of injectable drug delivery systems for use with one of Novartis’ early stage pipeline drugs. Additional terms of the agreement remain confidential at this time, however Unilife CEO Alan Shortall says the company is supplying Novartis with a differentiated game-changing device from which it will generate revenue on the basis of activities involved in clinical development. Shares in Unilife are trading up 0.6 per cent at $0.84. 
  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Healthcare gaining 83 points to 14,193. Shares in Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC) have risen 1.79 per cent and trading at $39.85. Shares in Mesoblast limited (ASX:MSB) and Sirtex Medical Limited (ASX:SRX) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Materials, falling 91 points to 9,805. Shares in Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) have fallen 9.78 per cent, trading at $0.42. Shares in Evolution Mining Limited (ASX:EVN) and Kingsgate Consolidated Limited (ASX:KCN)  are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,223 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9124.