Aust stocks flat at noon

Market steady after US ends three-day streak of record highs.

The Australian stock market was flat at noon after Wall Street snapped a three-day streak of closing record highs, with cautious investors waiting for Ben Bernanke's testimony to Congress.

At 1205 AEST, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index edged down 0.02% to 4985 points and the broader All Ordinaries index was flat at 4968.4 points.

Materials were mostly higher.

Rio Tinto rose 1.59% to $56.40.

BHP Billiton gained 1.94% to $34.08, after posting a sharp increase in its fourth-quarter iron ore and copper production.

Fortescue Metals soared 4% to $3.64.

Whitehaven Coal was flat at $2.16, while Newcrest added 1.05% to $11.51.

Iluka Resources soared 4.99% to $10.94 after announcing it reduced production in the June quarter to cut costs.

In energy, Santos added 0.22% to $13.88, Oil Search gained 0.25% to $8.17 and Woodside increased 0.43% to $37.57.

Financials were lower.

Commonwealth Bank lost 0.47% to $71.41, while ANZ Banking Group retreated 0.74% to $28.935.

National Australia Bank fell 0.33% to $30.00, while Westpac Banking Corporation declined 0.61% to $29.49.

Investment bank Macquarie Group lost 0.98% to $44.66.

In the insurance sector, QBE shed 2.38% to $16.38 and Suncorp put on 1.61% to $12.66.

Insurance Australia Group rose 1.54% to $5.93 after lifting full year guidance on insurance margins.

The retail sector was mixed.

Wesfarmers shed 0.23% to $38.85 after announcing its coal business increased production in the full year, while Woolworths was unchanged at $33.68.

Myer lost 0.2% to $2.475 while rival David Jones increased 1.01% to $2.505.

Harvey Norman added 0.8% to $2.51 while JB Hi-Fi lost 2.61% to $16.41.

In media, Fairfax Media retreated 3.81% to 50.5 cents, while 21st Century Fox shed 0.61% to $32.83.

Ten Network climbed 3.39% to 30.5 cents and Southern Cross Media retreated 1.64% to $1.495, while Seven West decreased 1.14% to $2.165.

Meanwhile, blue chip Telstra shed 0.51% lower to $4.835, while Qantas decreased 1.44% to $1.37.

The Westpac Banking Corporation Melbourne Institute Ltd released its leading index today, showing the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months into the future, which remained well above trend in May.

On Tuesday, S&P/ASX200 index rose 0.1% to 4986 points and the broader All Ordinaries index put on 0.06% to 4968.6 points.

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