Midday: ASX buoyed by BHP bumper profit

Market Reports

The Australian share market marched higher this morning, buoyed by BHP Billiton Limited’s (ASX:BHP) better than expected interim profit result, but has pulled back and is trading just slightly higher at noon. 
 
As Wall Street stayed closed on Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday investors await the US Federal Reserve’s meeting minutes due mid-week. Closer to home The Reserve Bank’s latest meeting minutes have shown Australia’s central bank sees a period of stability for local interest rates.
 
Across the stocks BHP is leading the mining sector higher after almost doubling its profit to $US8.1 billion. On the flip-side Coca-Cola Amatil Limited (ASX:CCL), Asciano Limited (ASX:AIO) and Pacific Brands Limited (ASX:PBG) are suffering after releasing their earnings reports. 
 
Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index has lifted 3.2 points to 5,386. On the futures market the SPI is 4 points higher. 
 
Company news 
 
Alcoa Inc (ASX:AAI, NYSE:AA) and Alumina Limited (ASX:AWC) have announced the closure of the Point Henry aluminium smelter and two rolling mills. Following a strategic review Alcoa says the 50-year old smelter has no prospect of becoming financially viable and the mills have been impacted by excess capacity. The restructuring costs are expected to reach up to $270 million and result in almost 1,000 job losses. The smelter and one rolling mill are located in Victoria and the second mill and a recycling facility are located in New South Wales. Shares in Alumina have fallen 1.88 per cent and are trading at $1.30. 
 
Amcor Limited (ASX:AMC) has posted a 30 per cent fall in its first half net profit, impacted by costs associated to the demerger of its Australasia and Packaging Distribution business. The packaging manufacturer’s profit before significant items rose 21.9 per cent to $379.8 million in the last six months of 2013. Amcor says it was aided by growth from emerging markets and recent acquisitions and has affirmed its guidance for full year underlying profit growth. Shares in Amcor have dropped 6.22 per cent and are trading at $10.11. 
  
Best and worst performers 
 
The sectors are trading mixed at midday: The best performing sector is materials, gaining 70 points to 10,663. Shares in Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG) have lifted 2.92 per cent and trading at $5.99. Shares in Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO) and Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is consumer discretionary, falling 10 points to 1,806. Shares in Pacific Brands Limited (ASX:PBG) have shed 11.11 per cent, trading at $0.64. Shares in Village Roadshow Limited (ASX:VRL) and Seven West Media Limited (ASX:SWM) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar
 
Gold is trading at $US1,327 an ounce.
The Australian dollar has firmed to $US0.9058.