Aust shares slightly higher at noon

The sharemarket is higher for an eighth consecutive day despite losing some of its early gains.

Gains on Wall Street overnight helped local stocks open higher, but as morning trade continued the main indices pulled back a little.

CommSec market analyst Juliette Saly said the pullback was not surprising given the All Ordinaries index is flirting with its highest level since June 2008.

"We have basically outperformed Wall Street in that sense," she said.

"Investors do get a little nervous and decide it's time to take money off the table."

A fall in the iron ore price overnight had also negatively impacted the resources sector, Ms Saly said.

BHP Billiton was down 26 cents at $39.12, Rio Tinto was down 53 cents at $69.02 and Fortescue Metals was three cents lower at $5.96.

In other local news, GrainCorp shares were down six cents at $7.75 after the company said it expects a 2013/14 full year profit between $80 million and $100 million, down from $175 million in 2012/13.

Shares in Ramsay Health Care soared by $2.85, or 6.4 per cent, to $47.41, after the country's largest private hospital operator reported a 14 per cent rise in half year profit.

Insurer QBE's shares were up 51 cents, or 4.4 per cent, at $12.16, despite posting a $US254 million ($A282.00 million) full year loss due to declines in its North American business.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank was 25 cents higher at $75.61, NAB was up 23 cents at $34.66, ANZ was two cents higher at $32.02 while Westpac was five cents lower at $33.52.

Qantas shares had gained half a cent to $1.245, as speculation continues about the number of jobs it plans to cut, while the federal government said it was drafting laws to remove foreign ownership limits on the airline.


* At 1229 AEDT on Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 5.3 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5,445.5.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up six points, or 0.11 per cent, at 5,456.1.

* The March share price index futures contract was eight points higher at 5,431, with 13,403 contracts traded.

* National turnover was 834.5 million securities worth $1.8 billion.

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