Midday: ASX down as jobless rate hits 5.7%

Market Reports

In the face of mixed offshore leads the Australian share market slipped at open and is 0.2 per cent down at noon despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching a record high overnight. 
 
Local stocks have stayed mainly unchanged in the red after official jobs data showed Australia’s jobless rate came in at 5.7 per cent last month.
 
While most sectors are on positive ground steep losses in the financials sector are being accelerated by three major banks all trading ex-dividend. 

Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index has declined 13 points to 5,421. On the futures market the SPI is 7 points higher. 

Economic news
 
Australia’s jobless rate hit 5.7 per cent last month while employment rose less than expected. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports the nation’s unemployment rate was steady in October after September’s jobless rate was revised up to 5.7 per cent from 5.6 per cent. The economy added 1,100 positions in October, down from predictions of a gain of 10,000 jobs. The participation rate also remained steady at 64.8 per cent.
 
Australia’s housing sector recovery has pushed the construction sector into expansion territory for the first time in more than three years. The Australian Industry Group’s (AIG) policy director Peter Burn says the sharp lift is a welcome indication we could be on the cusp of a long-awaited recovery in the construction sector. AIG and the Housing Industry Association’s Performance of Construction Index surged 6.8 points to 54.4 in October, lifting above the 50-level which separates expansion from contraction.
 
Company news
 
Shares in Fairfax Media Limited (ASX:FXJ) have firmed 0.43 per cent despite the media company revealing revenues have fallen 6 per cent in the year-to-date. CEO Greg Hywood also confirmed Fairfax expects to book a loss of $1.6 billion in the current 2014 financial year and has vowed to continue cost cutting.
 
Shares in Ausdrill Limited (ASX:ASL) have plunged 28.36 per cent after the mining and drilling contractor warned its annual profit will dive as much as 61 per cent to between $35 and $45 million as it battles against challenging market conditions.
 
Shares in SEEK Limited (ASX:SEK) have risen 1.25 per cent after the online jobs website said Laureat International Universities will acquire SEEK’s remaining 80 per cent stake in tertiary education company THINK Education Group for $104 million. 
 
Shares in Arena REIT (ASX:ARF) have gained 2.14 per cent after the investment trust inked a deal to buy a portfolio of 14 childcare centres in Queensland for $23.98 million which will be leased to soon-to-be-listed Affinity Education Group Limited.  
 
Best and worst performers 
 
The best performing sector is health care jumping 111 points to 13,997. Shares in Mesoblast Limited (ASX:MSB) have risen 4.61 per cent and trading at $6.36. Shares in Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC) and Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is financials excluding real estate investment trusts, falling 61 points to 7,152, with the main contributors to the declines all trading ex-dividend today: Shares in ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ) have dropped 3.85 per cent to $32.50. Shares in National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) and Bank of Queensland Limited (ASX:BOQ) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar
 
Gold is buying $US1,317 an ounce. 
The Australian dollar is buying $US94.75 cents.

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