Midday: Aus shares edge back on soft leads

Market Reports

The Australian share market opened moderately lower this morning and slipped 0.1 per cent at noon, after US and European markets put in a soft performance overnight, as concern for the European debt crisis continues to weigh on sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index is 5 points down at 4,381. On the futures market the SPI is 8 points lower. 
 
Company news 

Tasmanian timber company Gunns Limited (ASX:GNS) has appointed a voluntary administrator after it failed to secure funds to keep the company running. Lenders have rejected the woodchipper’s plans for a capital raising or restructure. Gunns issued a statement to the market that confirmed the company is unable to continue trading. The company extended its annual net loss earlier this month to $903 million, booking about $800 million of write downs. 

Leighton Holdings Limited’s (ASX:LEI) wholly owned subsidiary Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd, has been awarded a $US1.5 billion contract by Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG). Under the terms of the agreement, Leighton will deliver whole-of-mine management over five years at the Firetail mine, that forms part of the Soloman Hub. Shares in Leighton are trading down 0.06 per cent at $16.47. 

Best and worst performers 

The best performing sector is telco services gaining 7 points to 1,331 Shares in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand (ASX:TEL) have risen 1.89 per cent and trading at $1.89. Shares in M2 Telecommunications Group and Telstra are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is materials, falling 94 points to 9,892. Shares in Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI) have fallen 6.03 per cent, trading at $0.55. Shares in Lynas Corporation and Fortescue Metals are also lower. 

Gold and the dollar 

Gold is trading at $US1,768 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.042.