Midday: ASX slips while home sales boom

Market Reports

The Australian share market has slipped in morning trade following uninspiring offshore leads. Global markets fell overnight after the European Central Bank (ECB) kept its key rate on hold at a record low and Wall Street digested jobs data ahead of the official jobs report this evening. 
Across the Australian benchmark the sectors are looking mixed with resources extending this week’s declines and the majors miners weighing. A lower oil price has not helped the energy sector and the gold sector is also looking red. 
On the bright side real estate stocks have gotten a boost after the Housing Industry Association (HIA) showed Australian new home sales boomed in November as the ripple effect of a low interest rate environment continues to trickle through. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index has moved 8.4 points lower to 5,316. On the futures market the SPI is 11 points lower. 
Economic news
New home sales hit a 2.5 year high last year - recording the quickest monthly pace of growth since the beginning of 2010. The Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) chief economist Harley Dale says, “Over the three months to November 2013 the volume of detached house sales increased in all five surveyed states, while the downward trend evident in multi-unit sales has now reversed due to strong monthly outcomes in both September and November of 2013.” HIA’s New Home Sales report showed new home sales grew 7.5 per cent in November on the back of a 30.5 per cent lift in multi-units and a 3.6 per cent rise in detached house sales. 
Stock movers at midday
Shares in Integrated Research Limited (ASX:IRI) have leapt to the top spot with a 11.85 per cent gain after the software provider predicted it will post an interim profit of up to $4.8 million when it releases its financial report next month, compared to $2.8 million the year before.    
Shares in Neon Energy Limited (ASX:NEN) have plunged to the bottom of the board with a 72.63 per cent loss after releasing the second disappointing drill test result in under a fortnight. The oil and gas explorer has advised the operator is preparing to abandon both wells. 
Shares in Coalspur Mines Limited (ASX:CPL) have risen 3.06 per cent after the coal explorer announced it has reached an agreement regarding to the development of the Vista project in North America with the sole remaining First Nation party now having withdrawn as an intervener. 
Shares in Southern Cross Electrical Engineer Limited (ASX:SXE) are trading 0.64 per cent lower after the service provider scored a $40 million contract from Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) to work on the Cape Lambert Port B Project in Western Australia. 
Best and worst performers 
The sectors are putting in a mixed performance: The best performing sector is health care, gaining 46 points to 14,442. Shares in Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX:RHC) have risen 2.06 per cent and trading at $45.04. Shares in Sigma Pharmaceutical Limited (ASX:SIP) and CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) are also stronger. 
The worst performing sector is materials, falling 139 points to 9,856. Shares in Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO) have dropped 3.38 per cent, trading at $1.00. Shares in Alumina Limited (ASX:AWC) and Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG) are also lower. 
Gold and the dollar
Gold is steady from this morning - buying $US1,228 an ounce. 
The Australian dollar has slipped from this morning and is buying $US0.8889.