Midday: China data lifts Aus shares

Market Reports

The Australian share market has started the second quarter of the year higher after rising 7 per cent in the first three months of the year. The positive start to the week comes after stronger than expected Chinese manufacturing figures released yesterday and Wall Street posting its strongest first quarterly gain in a decade. Local equities rose up to 0.7 per cent at open before pulling back slightly ahead of noon as investors digest a series of local economic reports. 

The S&P/ASX 200 index has lifted 23 points and is 4,358. On the futures market the SPI is 24 points stronger.

Economic news

Building approvals fell more than expected in February, reports the Australian Bureau of Statistics. According to the ABS residential building approvals fell 7.8 per cent in February and were down 15.2 per cent in the year to February.

Home prices slightly increased last month. RP Data-Rismark has shown capital city home values rose 0.2 per cent in March, after lifting 0.8 per cent the month before. Prices in Sydney rose 0.4 per cent last month while prices in Melbourne fell 0.2 per cent.

Australian manufacturing activity contracted last month. The Australian Industry Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers performance of manufacturing index dropped 1.8 points to 49.5 in March. A read above 50 indicates expansion.

Consumer prices were higher last month. TD Securities – Melbourne Institute inflation gauge increased 0.5 per cent in March after a lift of 0.1 per cent the month before. The inflation gauge increased 1.8 per cent in the year to March, below the RBA’s target rate of between 2-3 per cent.

Company news

Gunns Limited (ASX:GNS) has again requested its trading halt be extended as it plans for its  proposed $400 million equity raising. The Tasmanian timber company is raising the funds to tackle its debt and boost the development of its $2.5 billion Bell Bay pulp mill project. Gunns expects to provide an update on the April 10, 2012. Shares in Gunns last traded at $0.16.

Gaming company Tatts Group Limited (ASX:TTS) has announced it is on the hunt for a CEO ahead of its current CEO’s retirement at the end of this year. Tatts says it is looking at external and internal candidates and that the search has been timed for minimum disruption and an orderly transition. Shares in Tatts Group are trading steady at $2.48.

Best and worst performers

Most sectors are trading higher: The best performing sector is Materials gaining 193 points to 11,180. Shares in Range Resources Limited (ASX:RRS) have risen 5.41 per cent and trading at $0.195. Shares in PanAust Limited (ASX:PNA) and Sandfire Resources NL (ASX:SFR) are also higher.

The worst performing sector is Industrials, falling 19 points to 3,774. Shares in Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) have fallen 4.09 per cent, trading at $1.71. Shares in Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) and GWA International Limited (ASX:GWA) are also lower.

New Zealand

The NZSX50 is 2 points lower at noon. Taking a look at the top four stocks by turnover, Telecom Corporation of New Zealand is at the top of the list with stock up 0.62 per cent at $2.44, followed by ANZ, Fletcher Building and Westpac.   

Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,670 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying $US1.0411.