Australian market flat at noon

Published by AAP Newswire, April 2011

Sydney, April 18 AAP - The Australian stock market shrugged off a positive start to drift in flat directionless trade, with small gains in financial's offsetting a dour materials sector.

At 1200 AEDT, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 1.6 points at 4853.7, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 0.4 points at 4939.7.

On the ASX 24, the June share price index futures contract was four points higher at 4867, with 15,192 contracts traded.

Wealth Within analyst Janine Cox said investors were sitting on the sidelines amid a lack of strong company news and choppy US data.

At 1206 AEST, the major banks were mixed, with Commonwealth up one cent at $52.23, ANZ up four cents at $23.65 and NAB up four cents at $26.23.

Westpac was down eight cents at $24.72.

The major miners weighed on the bourse after base metals lost ground in London over the weekend, while energy stocks were down 0.2 per cent.

At 1208 AEST, shares in BHP Billiton were down 19 cents at $47.34, while Rio Tinto was down 40 cents at $83.75.

"I think they've run quite hard over the past three weeks," Ms Cox said.

"BHP looks really good over the medium term, so even if it does pull back a bit, there is more upside there."

The defensive healthcare sector was the best performer, up 1.21 per cent.

"If you look at what's been happening with the healthcare sector over the last few years, people have taken it as a safe haven," Ms Cox said.

Pharmaceutical and biotech company CSL Ltd was up 45 cents at $35.35 by 1210 AEST.

At 1213 AEST, the price of spot gold in Sydney was $US1485.78, up $US9.98 from Friday's close of $US1,475.80.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining was down nine cents at $41.21.

In news on Monday, the Housing Industry Association and RP Data said Australian residential land sales had reached their lowest level in a decade, almost halving from a year earlier, a housing report shows.

Retailer Woolworths Ltd reaffirmed its full year earnings guidance after reporting a five per cent lift in third quarter sales.

At 1220 AEST, shares in Woolworths were up 20 cents at $26.73.

Rival Wesfarmers, which owns Coles supermarkets, was up one cent at $33.08.

Also in news, Leighton Holdings Ltd's Middle Eastern subsidiary, Al Habtoor Leighton, said it may need a cash injection from its parent firm if ongoing legacy projects are not paid on time.

Leighton shares were down 21 cents at $24.68 by 1220 AEST.

Transfield Services Ltd and its joint venture partner WorleyParsons Ltd have won a $65 million contract with oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum.

Transfield shares were up one cent at $3.46, while WorleyParsons were up 39 cents at $31.36.

Woodside shares were up 11 cents at $46.73.

At 1220 AEST, national turnover was 954.5 million shares worth $1.8 billion, with 458 stocks trading up, 467 down and 412 unchanged.

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