Midday: ASX falls as Wall St extends reversal

Market Reports

The Australian share market has fallen 0.5 per cent at open after equity and commodity markets dropped overnight. Back-flipping from record highs earlier in the week, Wall Street continued to reverse direction and retreated about 1 per cent after weak Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) earnings hit sentiment. All local sectors but utilities have followed south led by the retailers, gold stocks after the precious metal price fell overnight and iron ore miners on price softness.  
 
Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index has sunk 26 points to sit at 5,485. On the futures market the SPI is 27 points lower. 
 
Company news
 
Shares in Metgasco Limited (ASX:MEL) have shed almost half their value after responding to the government’s suspension of its Rosella exploration drilling program near Lismore in northern New South Wales. The coal seam gas miner says it is shocked by the government’s decision, which relates to its community consultation program, and has defended its position. Metgasgo is seeking to have the suspension withdrawn and says without an immediate lifting the company will suffer substantial losses. The company has also claimed it is not aware of any matter involving its conduct that would constitute grounds for an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Shares in Metgasco have plunged 44.32 per cent since exiting a trading halt today and are trading at $0.05 at noon. 
 
Leighton Holdings Limited (ASX:LEI) has responded to speculation it will pay out almost $70 million compensation to settle a shareholder class action. The comments come after media reports stated Leighton is nearing a deal to settle the action in relation to the company’s $1.1 billion write down announcement in April 2011. The construction giant says advanced negotiations continue but a settlement has not yet been signed and is not expected to have a material impact on the company. Leighton Holdings also today announced it has won a $100 million contract to build mine infrastructure for Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Shares in Leighton Holdings have dropped 1.05 per cent to $20.68 at noon. 
 
Best and worst performers
 
Most sectors are trading in the red: The only sector on positive territory is utilities, adding 4 points to 5,904. Shares in DUET Group (ASX:DUE) have risen 1.36 per cent and trading at $2.23. Shares in AGL Energy Limited (ASX:AGK) and Envestra Limited (ASX:ENV) are also higher. 
 
The worst performing sector is consumer discretionary, retreating 19 points to 1,806. Shares in Nine Entertainment Co. Holdings Limited (ASX:NEC) have fallen 3.23 per cent, trading at $2.25. Shares in Pacific Brands Limited (ASX:PBG) and Flight Centre Travel Group Limited (ASX:FLT) are also lower. 
 
Gold and the dollar
 
Gold is trading at $US1,296.14 an ounce. 
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9354.