News: Midday: Aus shares erratic in choppy trade

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    Following steep falls in offshore markets, we've seen some choppy trade on the Australian share market today. The local bourse dropped at open, erasing around half of yesterday’s gains, but bounced back onto positive ground after the release of key local jobs data. However, we’re now back in the red, pulled down by the banks and miners. Most sectors are still dragging with the telco’s the only to sidestep the trend, buoyed by Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS) advancing after reporting a better than expected full year result.

    The S&P/ASX200 index has dipped 3 points and is 4,139 at noon. On the futures market the SPI is 7 points higher.

    Economic news

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics key employment figures have missed forecasts. Labour force data has shown Australia's unemployment rate increased more than expected to 5.1 per cent in July, from 4.9 per cent the month before. In July, total employment remained steady at 11.45 million, falling short of expectations for a rise of 10,000.

    Company news

    Despite posting a 54 per cent increase in its first half net profit, shares in Alumina Limited (ASX:AWC) have sunk because the profit came in under market expectations. The aluminium maker’s net profit of $US67.7 million was boosted by demand for the demand for the metal, higher alumina production and prices. Alumina has declared an interim fully franked dividend of 3 cents per share, 1 cent higher than last year but 1.2 cents below market expectations. Shares in Alumina have sunk to the worst performer of the S&P/ASX200, down 7 per cent and trading at $1.767.

    Shares in GPT Group (ASX:GPT) lifted after the property investor upgraded its full year earnings guidance and said it would restart its share buy-back.

    Half year operating income is now expected to be up to 8 per cent higher. Full year operating earnings per security are forecast to grow by around 7 per cent. CEO and Managing Director, Michael Cameron, says the guidance has been issued so GPT can reactivate its on-market buy-back prior to the release of its first half results on August 26, 2011. Shares in GPT Group (ASX:GPT) have lifted 2.58 per cent and are trading at $2.78.

    Best and worst performers

    Most sectors are trading in negative territory: The only sector in the black is Telco Services, gaining 37 points to 1,010. Shares in Stratatel have risen 12.9 per cent and trading at $0.035. Shares in Amcom Telecommunications and Telstra Corporation have also lifted. The worst performing sector is Real Estate Investment Trusts, falling 19 points to 703. Shares in Dexus Property Group have dipped 4.26 per cent and trading at $0.742. Shares in Stockland and Mirvac Group have also retreated. 

    New Zealand

    The NZSX50 is 1 point higher. Taking a look at the top four stocks by turnover, Telecom Corporation of New Zealand is at the top of the list with stock up 3.33 per cent at $2.485 followed by Fletcher Building, Sky City Entertainment Group and Westpac.

    Gold and the dollar

    Gold is trading at $US1,799 an ounce and the Australian dollar is buying $US1.0219 cents.  

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