Midday: ASX flat, Billabong spikes

Market Reports

Without any significant offshore leads to buoy it the Australian share market opened tepidly and remains flat at noon, with investors sitting tight ahead of the latest oratory from US federal reserve chief Ben Bernanke. Materials, led by gold stocks, are the best performers at midday.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 3 points down at 4,983. On the futures market the SPI is 3 points lower. 
 
Economic news
 
The Westpac Melbourne Institute leading index, which indicates the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months into the future, remained well above trend in May, coming in at 4.9 per cent, above its long-term trend of three per cent.

Company news
 
Downer EDI Limited (ASX:DOW) subsidiary Downer Blasting Services has been awarded $230 million in contract extensions. 
 
CuDeco Limited (ASX:CDU) shares have firmed in early trade following the announcement that diamond drilling at its Rocklands South copper project is continuing to delineate a significant zone of high grade mineralisation. 
 
Financial services firm Macquarie has lowered its recommendation for pipeline company APA Group (ASX:APA) from outperform to neutral, wary of its $2 billion scrip bid for natural gas distributor Envestra Limited (ASX:ENV)
 
Billabong International Limited (ASX:BBG) shares have emerged from the trading halt on a steep ascent, soaring 40 per cent in early trade as investors cheer the move by US private equity firm Altamont capital partners to take control of the surfwear retailer's debt. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Materials gaining 150 points to 9,206. Shares in Sundance Resources Limited (ASX:SDL) have risen 7.05 per cent and trading at $0.08. Shares in Kingsgate Consolidated Limited (ASX:KCN) and Iluka Resources Limited (ASX:ILU) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Utilities, falling 54 points to 5,486. Shares in APA Group (ASX:APA) have fallen 1.93 per cent, trading at $6.11. Shares in AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGK) and Envestra Limited (ASX:ENV) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,287 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9227.