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News: Midday: ASX surges & banks cut rates



  1. The local market surged 1.5 per cent on open this morning as strong sentiment from yesterday’s rate cut mixes with positive overseas leads. The ASX was 1.4 per cent higher at noon.
     
    A recovery in the oil price lifted US stocks and was helped along by a rally in Europe where there’s speculation that Greece has reached agreement on its debt burden.
     
    This morning Westpac Bank (ASX:WBC) followed Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) to cut its home loan interest rates.
     
    The S&P/ASX 200 indexis 78 points up at 5,786. On the futures market the SPI is 86 points higher.
     
    Economic news

    The Australian Industry Group has shown its Performance of Services Index (PSI) for January improved by 2.4 points to 49.9 in January. The level is just shy of 50 points which would indicate expansion in the sector.
     
    Company news
     
    Ramelius Resources Limited (ASX:RMS) has seen some movement today after making strong gains last month as it says it expects to report a first half profit of $5.7 million. The gold miner says gross gold sales pulled in $67 million in the six months to December last year which helped it improve on its pre-tax loss of $81.1 million in the first half to December 2013. CEO Mark Zeptner says it bodes well for plans to increase overall production above 100,000 ounces per annum. Shares in Ramelius are trading flat at$0.14 
     
    Shares in Icon Energy Limited (ASX:ICN) have jumped on news the Supreme Court of Queensland struck out a claim made against the company. The oil and gas explorer says the claim made by Ronald William Baldwin and Southern Fairway Investments sought damages arising from an alleged breach of an MOU from 2008. Shares in Icon Energy are trading up 7.14 per cent at $0.10 
     
    Best and worst performers

    The best performing sector is materials, gaining 3.4 per cent to 9,392. Shares in Atlas Iron Limited (ASX:AGO) have risen 19.7 per cent and trading at $0.20. Shares in Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC) and Fortescue Metals Group Limited (ASX:FMG) are also stronger.
     
    The worst performing sector is telco services, falling 0.5 per cent to 2,306. Shares in M2 Group Limited (ASX:MTU) have fallen 0.8 per cent, trading at $8.96. Shares in Vocus Communications Limited (ASX:VOC) and Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS) are also lower.
     
    Gold and the dollar

    Gold is trading at $US1,259 an ounce.
    The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7769

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