Midday: ASX 0.4% up at noon

Market Reports

The Australian share market opened stronger on positive Wall Street leads, with investors showing confidence ahead of tonight’s Fed meeting. Local stocks have slipped from their opening jump to be 0.4 per cent up at midday, with health stocks leading and the miners weighing at this stage. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 17 points up at 5,432. On the futures market the SPI is 11 points higher. 
 
Economic news
 
Total new home sales hit a two-year high in September, according to the Housing Industry Association. The HIA new home sales report recorded a 6.4 per cent lift in new home sales in September, the fastest monthly growth since April last year. The increase was underpinned by a 4.5 per cent rise in detached house sales and a 19.9 per cent jump in multi-unit sales, with low mortgage rates and an outlook for rising prices wooing more buyers.
 
Company news 
 
Crown Limited (ASX:CWN) CEO Rowen Craigie says weak consumer sentiment has affected the gaming and entertainment group's Melbourne and Perth resorts, however gaming revenue in fiscal 2014 is in line with the previous corresponding period. Speaking at the company’s AGM, Mr Craigie said that the impact of refurbishment on the main gaming floor at Crown Melbourne, the temporary loss of car parking spaces at Crown Perth and general softness in consumer sentiment have all impacted current trading. Chairman James Packer has also told investors that Crown’s initial $600 million investment in a Macau casino is now worth in excess of $6 billion. Shares in Crown are trading up 2.57 per cent at $16.75. 
 
Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory Co. (ASX:WCB) shares have retreated in early trade after soaring yesterday as a fourth suitor emerged in the takeover race. Lion, owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings, stirred the pot yesterday when it claimed a 9.9 per cent stake in WCB at $9.25 a share, joining a congested bidding line that also includes Bega Cheese Limited (ASX:BGA), Canadian dairy giant Saputo and Murray Goulburn. Shares in WCB are trading down 6.36 per cent at $8.24. 
  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Healthcare gaining 115 points to 14,150. Shares in Mesoblast Limited (ASX:MSB) have risen 2.40 per cent and trading at $5.98. Shares in ResMed Inc. (CHESS) (ASX:RMD) and Ansell Limited (ASX:ANN) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Materials, falling 30 points to 9,998. Shares in Perseus Mining Limited (ASX:PRU) have fallen 9.91 per cent, trading at $0.48. Shares in Evolution Mining Limited (ASX:EVN) and St. Barbara Limited (ASX:SBM) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,344 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9476, having fallen over night as investors unwound their US dollar positions ahead of the fed meeting.