Midday: Aus shares flat, AUD down

Market Reports

Following soft leads out of Wall Street the Australian share market opened slightly lower and is flat at noon, with financials leading the major sectors at the moment. Materials are dragging for the second straight day, while fears about China as well as heightened expectations of a near-term taper by the Federal Reserve is weighing on the Australian dollar.
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 8 points down at 5,349. On the futures market the SPI is 24 points lower. 
 
Economic news
 
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the total amount of construction work done in the country rose by 2.7 per cent in the September quarter. Over the year to September, the volume of construction work done was up 1.3 per cent. Economists had tipped a 0.3 per cent fall.
 
Company news
 
The Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory Co. (ASX:WCB) takeover battle continues to capture headlines, with suitor Murray Goulburn this morning urging the Abbott government to halt Canadian suitor Saputo’s bid for control. Murray Goulburn says Saputo has misinformed shareholders, as the Canadian giant further increased its WCB stake to 4.8 per cent, and has urged the Australian Takeovers Panel to intervene and stop Saputo from accepting any more shares. Shares in WCB are trading down 0.11 per cent at $9.25. 
 
Crown Resorts Limited (ASX:CWN) shares are stronger in early trade after brokerage Bell Potter put a price of $20.35 per share on the gaming and entertainment company. The bullish view comes on the back of Crown’s Asian exposure and surging Chinese tourism numbers.
According to Bell Potter President Charlie Aitken, comparing Crown to rival Echo Entertainment Group Limited (ASX:EGP) is akin to comparing a Bentley to a Commodore.  Shares in Crown are trading up 1.32 per cent at $16.86. 
 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Financials excluding real estate investment trusts gaining 23 points to 7,066. Shares in Westpac Banking Corp (ASX:WBC) have risen 0.85 per cent and trading at $33.04. Shares in FlexiGroup Limited (ASX:FXL) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Materials, falling 105 points to 9,960. Shares in Kingsgate Consolidated Limited (ASX:KCN) have fallen 8.47 per cent, trading at $1.14. Shares in Silver Lake Resources Limited (ASX:SLR) and Sirius Resources N.L.(ASX:SIR) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,244 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US0.9118, having fallen below $US0.91 overnight.