Midday: Aus shares hit by Icahn comments

Market Reports

The Australian share market followed US markets lower at open on the back of concerning comments from activist investor Carl Icahn, and is 0.5 per cent down at midday, having lifted off its morning lows on gains in the health sector. The Aussie dollar has bounced off the day’s low on the RBA minutes, with the central bank seemingly satisfied to wait for the effects of its earlier cuts to take shape.  
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 29 points down at 5,356. On the futures market the SPI is 29 points lower. 
 
Economic news

The RBA says there is mounting evidence that its interest rate cuts are having the desired effect and it is prudent to hold the cash rate steady for the time being, despite retaining the option of further policy loosening measures to support growth in the Australian economy, given it is battling an uncomfortably high currency. 
 
Members noted that monetary policy is supporting interest-sensitive sectors and asset values, while inflation remains within the target band. Conditions in the housing market also continue to strengthen, with national dwelling prices currently above their late 2010 peak. Prices over the three months to October have increased significantly in Sydney. 
 
Company news 
 
Consumer focused credit management company Thorn Group Limited (ASX:TGA) says huge demand for financing services is behind record first half revenue of $112.7 million. The owner of retailers Radio Rentals and Cashfirst says first half profits fell 5 per cent to $13.3 million due to heavy investment in its diversification strategy. Shares in Thorn Group are trading down 1.2 per cent at $2.46. 
 
Ruralco Holdings Limited (ASX:RHL) has reported a 58.7 per cent in its full year net profit of $5.7 million and says dry and hot conditions which had a notable impact in the first half, lingered into the second half. Despite the fall, the rural services business says it is strongly placed for improved market conditions, after adding quality partners to its network and consolidating its back office, with expected annualised savings of $1 million in 2014. Shares in Ruralco are trading up 3.12 per cent at $3.31. 
  
Best and worst performers

All major sectors are down at the moment. The sector with the fewest losses is Healthcare dropping 1 point to 14,001. Shares in Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) have risen 1.77 per cent and trading at $0.58. Shares in CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) and Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX:SHL) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Energy, falling 80 points to 13,711. Shares in Karoon Gas Australia Limited (ASX:KAR) have fallen 2.57 per cent, trading at $4.17. Shares in Aurora Oil & Gas Limited (ASX:AUT) and Paladin Energy Limited (ASX:PDN) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,275 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9381, having touched a low of $US0.9353 just prior to the RBA minutes.