Nelson Mandela dies; Qantas shares in trading halt: Midday Roundup

Nelson Mandela, the hero of the South African anti-apartheid movement, has died this morning aged 95, after his condition deteriorated earlier this year following a lung infection.

South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed his death this morning, saying South Africa’s first black president is now at peace.

Mandela had been receiving treatment at his family home since September, having previously spent three months in hospital.

In a public address, Zuma said: “Our nation has lost its great son. Our people have lost a father.”

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

Qantas shares in trading halt

Qantas shares have been placed in a trading halt this morning pending a company announcement, fuelling speculation of a downgrade in its credit rating from ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.

The trading halt follows its announcement yesterday that it was sacking 1000 people, as it signalled a possible loss of up to $300 million in the first half of the 2013-14 financial year.

“The trading halt is requested pending receipt of information from Standard and Poor’s in relation to Qantas’ credit rating, which is considered likely to be materially price sensitive,” Qantas said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Construction sector expands in November

The construction sector has grown for the second consecutive month, according to the latest figures from the Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association.

The Australian Performance of Construction Index rose 0.8 points to 55.2 in November, as a boost in new orders and deliveries drove the growth.

All major sub-sectors remained in positive territory, despite house building and apartment construction losing some ground for the month.

Ai Group director of public policy Peter Burn said in a statement the sector has started to gather momentum in recent months.

“The fact that growth was reported in each of the four sub-sectors is particularly encouraging and adds to the signs that the long-awaited re-balancing of the domestic economy may be getting underway on the back of low interest rates and a lift in business and household confidence,” he says.

Shares drop on open

Aussie shares have fallen on open, following international markets lower.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark was down 27.6 points to 5170.4 at 12:00pm AEDT. Overnight the Dow Jones dropped 68.26 points, down 0.43% to 15,821.51.

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