Midday: Aus shares hammered at noon

Market Reports

The Australian share market is deep in to the red at noon, with more than $20 billion dollars wiped off the market after a dramatic sell-off on Wall Street as investors fretted about a disappointing read on manufacturing in the US and China.
 
Figures

The S&P/ASX 200 index has shed 72 points, or 1.4 per cent, and is trading at 5,116. On the futures market the SPI is 81 points down. 

Economic news
 
While offshore leads are sending the local market south, investors are no doubt looking towards today’s all-important RBA cash rate announcement. The RBA is widely-tipped to keep the cash rate on hold at a record low 2.5 per cent when it meets for the first time this year. FNN will have all of the details on that decision shortly after 2.30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.
 
Company news 
 
Unilife Corporation (ASX:UNS) has widened its net loss for the December quarter to $16.3 million, compared to a net loss of $14.6 million during the same period a year ago. Despite the loss, CEO Alan Shortall described the quarter as strong , with many new long-term contracts signed with leading pharmaceutical companies. Shares in Unilife are trading 6.63 per cent lower at 84 cents.
 
McAleese Limited (ASX:MCS) has responded to media reports about its subsidiary Cootes Transport, saying a police investigation regarding a fatal accident in Mona Vale is ongoing and is therefore unable to comment. The company says it plans to restructure Cootes Transport this financial year, a move it says is in the best interests of shareholders. Shares in McAleese are trading 3.7 per cent higher at $1.12.
  
Best and worst performers

All sectors are down at the moment however the sector with the least falls is utilities dropping 19 points to 5,438. Shares in SP Ausnet Limited (ASX:SPN) are flat and trading at $1.23. Shares in Augur Resources (ASX:AGK) and APA Group (ASX:APA) have also made smaller losses. 
 
The worst performing sector is consumer discretionary, falling 29 points to 1,722. Shares in Breville Group Limited have fallen 4.47 per cent, trading at $7.69. Shares in Flight Centre Travel Group Limited (ASX:FLT) and G8 Education Limited (ASX:GEM) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,258 an ounce. The Australian dollar is buying 87.45 US cents.