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Aussie shares are losing ground for the fourth time in five days, with the ASX 200 down 21pts or 0.33 per cent to 6651.3. Losses from energy stocks, BHP, the banks and CIMIC (CIM) are the main weights. The index has been stuck in a narrow 2 per cent range since the middle of June in the absence of another positive catalyst.

A mixed set of employment numbers were released this morning for the month of June. Just 500 jobs were added last month which fell well short of the market’s expectations for an 18,000 lift. However, all of the job losses were part-time while there was a 21,100 gain in full-time employment. Although there are more people looking for work (a lift in the participation rate), the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.2 per cent. The market is currently pricing in just a 15 per cent chance of an August rate cut. The Australian dollar pushed higher. All eyes will now shift to the key quarterly inflation report which will be released on 31 July.

Mining stocks are mixed at lunch. BHP is down 1.1 per cent after a major broker cut its price target for the next 12 months. South32 (S32) is down 1.8 per cent following an underwhelming quarterly update this morning. S32 was divested from BHP in 2015.

Gold stocks are lifting on Thursday thanks to improvements in the price of the precious metal, US-China trade dispute concerns and the low interest rate environment. Shares in Evolution Mining (EVN), Newcrest (NCM), Northern Star (NST) and Regis (RRL) are up strongly.

Energy stocks are down for a second day partly due to a 1.5 per cent slide in the oil price last night together with some quarterly updates from Woodside (WPL) and Santos (STO). WPL is down by 2 per cent after recording a fall in production and revenue between April and June. Maintenance work at its key Pluto LNG project in WA and lower LNG prices pushed production down by 20 per cent and revenue by 39 per cent over the quarter.

Engineering group CIMIC (CIM) is slumping by 16 per cent after posting just a 1 per cent lift in first half earnings to $367m due to soft revenue in its construction business.

Property group Lendlease (LLC) is standing out, lifting by 4.5 per cent after entering an agreement with Google in the US which will involve 10-15 years of work in the San Francisco Bay Area worth billions of dollars.

1.1bn shares have changed hands at lunch worth $1.9bn. 538 stocks are up, 456 are down and 348 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec