Midday: Aus shares 0.7% up at noon

Market Reports

Buoyed by strong economic data out of the US and Europe, the Australian share market opened higher and is 0.7 per cent stronger at noon, with health stocks and the big banks leading the charge. The RBA’s December board meeting minutes have given the Aussie dollar a slight boost, seeing it edge up to the day’s high of $US8959. 
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 30 points up at 5,119. On the futures market the SPI is 19 points higher. 
 
Economic news
 
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) again repeated its concerns that the Australian dollar remains uncomfortably high, despite its recent falls, in the minutes of its December meeting. The central bank said the currency had "depreciated noticeably" over the past month, however a lower exchange rate would likely be needed to achieve balanced growth in the economy. The board said it saw further signs of the stimulatory effects of low interest rates, most notably in the housing market, and additional effects were still likely to be coming through.
 
Company news 
 
REA Group Limited (ASX:REA) shares have taken a hit in early trade after the real estate classified service announced the departure of CEO Greg Ellis. Mr Ellis has been with REA since 2008 and seen its value grow from $500 million to more than $5.3 billion, while it’s stock has doubled its value this year. Shares in REA Group are trading down 7.5 per cent at $37.49. 
 
Ruralco Holdings Limited (ASX:RHL) has announced that it will raise approximately $25 million via a fully underwritten institutional placement at an offer price of $3.25 per share. Proceeds will be used to expand Ruralco’s geographic presence via partnerships, building further into diversified sectors such as grain and water as well as provide opportunities to pursue acquisition options. Shares in Ruralco are in a trading halt, they last traded at $13.12. 
  
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector is Healthcare gaining 93 points to 13,844. Shares in Sirtex Medical Limited (ASX:SRX) have risen 3.25 per cent and trading at $11.45. Shares in Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH) and Acrux Limited (ASX:ACR) are also stronger. 
 
The worst performing sector is Utilities, falling 41 points to 5,308. Shares in APA Group (ASX:APA) have fallen 4.01 per cent, trading at $6.11. Shares in SP AusNet (ASX:SPN) and AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGK) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,243 an ounce and the Australian dollar has retreated from the day’s high, it’s currently buying $US0.8950.