The Australian share market opened stronger following a firm US lead and is 0.3 per cent up at noon. Gains in BHP Billiton shares following its quarterly production report has lifted the materials sector to the best performer.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 15 points up at 4,794. On the futures market the SPI is 19 points higher.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says Consumer prices grew below expectations in the December quarter. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2 per cent in the three months to December, lower than expectations of a 0.5 per cent rise. The Index rose 1.4 per cent in the September quarter. The ABS says the inflation rate has lifted to 2.2 per centfor the year.
The Westpac/Melbourne Institute Leading Index, an indicator the likely pace of economic activity in the future, came in at 3.9 per cent in November. The result is above its long-term trend of 2.8 per cent.
Boral Limited (ASX:BLD) has upgraded guidance for its underlying first half profit to about $52 million, up from its earlier forecast of $35 million. Boral says the improved guidance reflects better than anticipated trading conditions in Australian construction materials, underpinned by favourable weather conditions. Shares in Boral are trading up 0.1per cent at $4.88.
AP Eagers Limited (ASX:APE) expects to report a record profit result for its 2012 financial year. The motor vehicle distributor anticipates a pre tax net profit of $78.4 million, up 27 per cent on the previous year. Shares in AP Eagers are trading down0.64 per cent at $4.66.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector is Materials gaining 56 points to 10,712. Shares in St. Barbara Limited (ASX:SBM) have risen 6.9 per cent and trading at $1.55. Shares in Perseus Mining Limited (ASX:PRU) and Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) are also stronger at midday.
The worst performing sector is Industrials, falling 20 points to 3,657. Shares in Boart Longyear Limited (ASX:BLY) have fallen 3.66 per cent, trading at $1.98. Shares in NRW Holdings Limited (ASX:NWH) and Transfield Services Limited (ASX:TSE) are also lower.
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,694 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.055.