Midday: Offshore leads lift Aus shares

Market Reports

Following positive leads, the Australian share market opened higher, ahead of the Reserve Bank Of Australia's interest rate decision later today. The ASX is 0.3 per cent up at noon.

The S&P/ASX 200 index is 18 points up at 4,347. On the futures market the SPI is 19 points higher.

Economic news

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported an increase in retail sales by 0.2 per cent in February. It follows a 0.3 per cent rise in January.

Company news

Norton Gold Fields Limited (ASX:NGF) says it has received an indicative offer worth $229.4 million from China’a Zijing Mining. Zijing has offered $0.25 a share in cash and a special dividend of $0.02. The gold producer requested a trading halt yesterday pending today’s announcement and resumed trade this morning. Shares in Norton Gold are trading up 24.32 per cent at $0.23.

Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) have requested a trading halt today in order to complete certain financial reviews. The trading halt is expected to remain in place until this Thursday. Shares in Transfield last traded at $2.49.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Telco Services gaining 13 points to 1,138. Shares in Hutchison Telecommunications Limited (ASX:HTA) have risen 2.08 per cent and trading at $0.049. Shares in Telstra and Telecom Corporation of New Zealand are also stronger.

The worst performing sector is Utilities, falling 6 points to 4,860. Shares in APA Group have fallen 0.77 per cent, trading at $5.15. Shares in Energy World Corporation and Envestra are also lower.

New Zealand

The NZSX50 is down 4 points 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 0.41 per cent at $2.46, followed by Fletcher Building, ANZ and Westpac Banking.

Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,679 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.0436.