Following positive offshore leads on the back of strong US jobs data, the Australian share market opened higher and is trading 0.24 per cent up at noon thanks to strength in financials.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 11 points up at 5,457. On the futures market the SPI is 16 points higher.
The AiG Performance of Construction Index fell 4 points to 44.2 for February, the weakest level in six months. Figures below 50 indicate a contraction of activity. The commercial construction sector returned to growth, rising by 12.9 points to 59.9 points. The engineering construction sector exhibited the most marked deterioration falling by 14.6 points to 39.7 points. The sub-index of new orders, an important leading indicator, dropped 8.2 points to 39.5. It was the lowest reading for this measure since January last year.
Elsewhere, RBA chief Glen Stevens has fronted the House Budget Committee this morning in Sydney. Stevens was careful to keep his thoughts on the Aussie dollar close to his chest. He also downplayed the recent rise in inflation and remained cautious about the impact of slower mining investment. Stevens said he was satisfied that interest rates were doing their job to support the economy and remained comfortable for the RBA to keep rates on hold, before raising them towards the end of this year.
Owner of Cootes Transport, McAleese Limited (ASX:MCS)
has said the troubled transport contractor is in a good position to continue to operate on New South Wales roads. Cootes was given 14 days on Thursday to show cause by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) why it should not be deregistered. McAleese said in a statement that Cootes had been working cooperatively with RMS and is considering its response. Cootes has been the focus of a safety crackdown after one of its fuel tankers was involved in a fatal crash on Sydney's northern beaches last October. Shares in McAleese are trading down 7.14 per cent at $0.52.
Queensland Bauxite Limited (ASX:QBL)
has reported it has secured control of a coal project in Mozambique with JV partner Regius Coal. The licence for the project includes a 191 square kilometre area on the Lugenda River with a 3 metre coal seam and large areas of potential mineralisation. The company says the exploration target for the project is 262 million tons of coal. The exploration area is located within 250 kilometres of the Palm and Pemba port facilities. Shares in Queensland Bauxite are trading flat per cent at $0.01.
The best and worst performers
The best performing sector is Energy gaining 140 points to 14,034. Shares in Paladin Energy Limited(ASX:PDN)
have risen 4.82 per cent and trading at $0.60. Shares in Worleyparsons Limited (ASX:WOR)
and Horizon Oil Limited (ASX:HZN)
are also stronger.
The worst performing sector is Financials including Real Estate, falling 12 points to 7,060. Shares in Perpetual Limited (ASX:PPT)
have fallen 2.76 per cent, trading at $51.41. Shares in FlexiGroup Limited (ASX:FXL)
and Aveo Group (ASX:AOG)
are also lower.
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,349 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9080.