Midday: ASX eases from 21 month high open

Market Reports

The Australian share market hit a fresh 21 month high at open on the back of solid gains in US markets, which hit five year highs of their own on Friday, but has eased to be 0.1 per cent up at noon, with gains among the major miners being offset by some dips among the big four banks.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 6 points up at 4,927. On the futures market the SPI is 7 points higher. 
 
Economic news
 
The TD Securities/Melbourne Institute Monthly Inflation Gauge rose by 0.3 per cent in January for a 2.5 per cent annual pace, right in the middle of the RBA's two to three per cent target range. The gauge rose 0.4 per cent in December. A rise in utilities, urban transport fares and education were the main change contributors to the change. 
 
Company news 
 
Nufarm Limited (ASX:NUF) subsidiary Nuseed do Brasil SA has acquired a 51 per cent controlling stake in Brazil based seed company Atlantica Sementes for $11.5 million. Nufarm says the acquisition provides an important base in the growing Brazilian market and is a further step in the expansion of Nuseed’s global platform. Shares in Nufarm are trading down 0.18 per cent at $5.64. 
 
G8 Education Limited (ASX:GEM) anticipates it will exceed an average net profit guidance expectation of $19 million for the 2012 calendar year. The education and child care company reached the average expectation figure after compiling the earnings estimates of four separate brokers. Shares in G8 Education are trading steady at $1.64. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Materials gaining 84 points to 10,936. Shares in Mirabela Nickel Limited (ASX:MBN) have risen 5.56 per cent and trading at $0.48. Shares in Gindalbie Metals Limited (ASX:GBG) and Sims Metal Management Limited (ASX:SGM) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Consumer Staples, falling 15 points to 9,269. Shares in Goodman Fielder Limited (ASX:GFF) have fallen 0.74 per cent, trading at $0.68. Shares in Wesfarmers Limited (ASX:WES) and Metcash Limited (ASX:MTS) are also lower at midday. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,666 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.041.