Midday: Aus shares drop 1.4%

Market Reports

Negative offshore leads pushed Aussie shares down at the open and the market is 1.4 per cent down at noon. A strong US dollar put pressure on the Euro and Australian currency, with the local unit now below parity. Softer commodity prices have sunk the miners and energy stocks and all sectors are in negative territory.

The S&P/ASX 200 index has dropped 59 points and is 4,131. On the futures market the SPI is 51 points down.

Economic news

Sales of new cars in Australia dropped last month, but less than expected. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported new motor vehicle sales dropped 0.7 per cent, meaning 87,370 cars were sold. Over the year car sales were 2.9 per cent higher than November last year.

Company news

Investa Office Fund (ASX:IOF) has sold its 50 per cent interest in the NVH Building in Paris for $181 million, after buying it in 2006 for $204 million. The price is an 11 per cent premium to the building’s book value of $162 million. The sale is expected to be finalised by February next year and Investa says it will put the $88 million in proceeds to reducing euro denominated debt. Shares in Investa Office Fund have gained 0.33 per cent, trading at $0.602.

Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) has been granted a $240 million contract extension at the South Middleback Ranges iron ore operations in South Australia. The 12 month contract has been awarded by OneSteel Limited (ASX:OST) to Leighton’s wholly owned subsidiary, Leighton Contractors. Work to be undertaken includes supervision, equipment, labour, materials and infrastructure at OneSteel’s mine. Shares in Leighton Holdings have fallen 2.13 per cent, trading at $19.78.

Best and worst performers

All sectors are in negative territory: The sector with the smallest losses is Consumer Discretionary, losing 2 points to 1,235. Shares in Ten Network Holdings have risen 5.98 per cent and trading at $0.975. Shares in InvoCare and Pacific Brands are also higher.

The worst performing sector is Materials, dropping 263 points to 10,755. Shares in Bannerman Resources have retreated 18.18 per cent and trading at $0.225. Shares in Mirabela Nickel and Lynas Corporation are also weaker.

New Zealand

The NZSX50 is 20 points lower: Taking a look at the top four stocks by turnover, Chorus is at the top of the list with stock falling 1.35 per cent to $2.93 followed by Telecom Corporation of New Zealand, Fletcher Building and Westpac.

Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,578 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying 98.95 US cents.