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REFILE-Australian shares unchanged as gain in gold stocks offsets tech weakness

(Corrects typographical error in the headline)

* Gold stocks surge as bullion gains

* CIMIC rises on highway contract win

* NZ says economy contracted in December quarter

March 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares were unchanged in early trade on Thursday as gains in gold and mining stocks were offset by losses in tech and industrials, while domestic jobs data showed a rise from January.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.05% at 6,795.2 by 2350 GMT.

Data showed that the country added about 88,700 jobs in February, higher than a Reuters poll projection of an increase of 30,000. Employment in January had risen by 29,100.

Among individual sectors and shares, gold stocks surged 4% as prices of the underlying precious metal rose after the U.S. Federal Reserve reiterated its accommodative monetary policy.

Gold explorers Bellevue Gold and De Grey Mining jumped 3.7% and 3.8%, respectively.

Miners advanced 1%, with BlueScope Steel gaining 1.7%

Tech stocks fell 0.8%, with buy now pay later co Afterpay and location intelligence co Nearmap Ltd dropping 2.8% and 1.4%, respectively.

Industrial stocks lost 0.4%, with toll road operator Transurban Group and property developer Lendlease Group falling 1.7% and 1%, respectively.

Meanwhile, engineering services provider CIMIC Group rose as much as 0.7% after it was selected by the Queensland Government to upgrade a highway. The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 786 while 520 declined.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.2% lower, hurt by losses among utility and tech stocks.

The country on Thursday reported a contraction in its economy in the final quarter of last year, raising concern of a second recession and quashing expectations of a near-term hike in interest rates. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh V.)

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