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Australian Market Flat Ahead Of Unemployment Data

The Australian stock market is flat on Thursday in choppy trading following the modest losses overnight on Wall Street and the fall in crude oil prices. Investors are also cautious ahead of the release of Australia's unemployment data for May later in the day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 2.80 points or 0.04 percent to 6,546.50, after falling to 6541.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 0.70 points or 0.01 percent to 6,629.60. Australian stocks gave up early gains to close flat on Wednesday.

In the mining space, Fortescue Metals is losing more than 2 percent, BHP Group is declining almost 1 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are also weak after crude oil prices fell about 4 percent overnight. Woodside Petroleum is declining almost 2 percent, while Santos and Oil Search are lower by more than 1 percent.

Gold miners are mixed despite gold prices rising for a second straight session overnight. Evolution Mining is losing more than 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is adding 0.4 percent.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are edging higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent.

Commonwealth Bank has agreed to sell its Count Financial advice business to financial services firm CountPlus for A$2.5 million, but will continue to manage customer remediation related to past issues. Shares of Commonwealth Bank are adding 0.3 percent, while CountPlus' shares are surging almost 30 percent.

Wesfamers reported a 2.3 percent decrease in comparable sales at the struggling Target chain for the five months to May and said full-year earnings from its department stores could fall by as much as 17 percent from last year. Shares of Wesfarmers are losing more than 4 percent.

The federal financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC has ordered the appointment an external auditor to probe AfterPay Touch Group's compliance with money laundering and terrorism financing laws. AfterPay's shares are falling almost 7 percent.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or ACCC said it is examining whether the proposed takeover of Ruralco Holdings by Canadian fertilizer giant Nutrien could reduce wholesale competition and also impact prices as well as product range. Ruralco's shares are lower by more than 4 percent.

In economic news, Australia will on Thursday release May numbers for unemployment. The jobless rate is expected to ease to 5.1 percent from 5.2 percent in April. The economy is predicted to have added 16,000 jobs following the gain of 28,4 in the previous month.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6935, down from $0.6946 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks turned in a lackluster performance on Wednesday before ending modestly lower as traders weighed lingering trade concerns against optimism about an interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve. Partly offsetting the negative sentiment about trade, another report showing tame inflation has further fueled expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in the near future.

The Dow edged down 43.68 points or 0.2 percent to 26,004.83. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 29.85 points or 0.4 percent to 7,792.72 and the S&P 500 dipped 5.88 points or 0.2 percent to 2,879.84.

The major European markets also gave back ground on Wednesday after trending higher in recent sessions. While the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.6 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index dipped by 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures plunged sharply on Wednesday after data from the Energy Information Administration or EIA showed a jump in U.S. crude stockpiles for a second straight week. WTI crude for July delivery plunged $2.13 or about 4 percent to $51.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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