Midday: Aus shares flat on weak materials

Market Reports

Following soft international leads, the Australian share market is trading flat at midday after continuing weakness in materials was offset by strength in financials. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 0.6 of a point up at 5,412. On the futures market the SPI is 8 points lower. 
 
Economic news

ABS Overseas Arrivals and Departures figures show short-term visitor arrivals during January 2014 decreased 2.7% to 559,600 compared with December 2013. 
 
Short-term resident departures during January 2014 increased 0.5% to 752,900 compared with December 2013. The current trend estimate for departures is 8.1% higher than in January 2013.
 
Company news
 
After yesterday announcing a $US125 million contract from an unnamed naval customer in the Middle East, Austal Limited (ASX:ASB) has today announced the inking of a contract for two more Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the US Navy.

The two modern warships will add $684 million to Austal’s order book, raising it to a record $3.3 billion. Austal already has five of the ships under construction and may construct up to ten LCS for the US Navy. The company already has a fully funded contract to build ten Joint High Speed Vessels. Shares in Austal Limited are trading down 2.25 per cent at $0.87. 
 
Medical biotechnology researchers Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited (ASX:IIL) have announced the approval of a patent in the EU for the company’s anti-radiation injury treatment MIS416. The drug is for use on the side effects of radiation based cancer treatments and has already been approved for use in Australia and New Zealand. It is also awaiting approval in US. 
 
MIS416 uses immune modulating microparticle technology to prevent damage to blood vessels and bone marrow following exposure to radiation. Shares in IIL are trading up 5.66 per cent at $0.28. 
  
The best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Telcos gaining 19 points to 1,777. Shares in Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS) have risen 1.2 per cent and trading at $5.09. Shares in Singapore Telecommunications Limited (ASX:SGT) is also up and Telecom Corp of New Zealand (ASX:TEL) is flat at noon. 
 
The worst performing sector is Industrials, falling 41 points to 4,118. Shares in Mineral Resources Limited (ASX:MIN) have fallen 7.01 per cent, trading at $11.41. Shares in Skilled Group Limited (ASX:SKE) and Bradken Limited (ASX:BKN) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,339 an ounce.

The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9116.