Midday: Aus shares continue to slide

Market Reports

Following another round of negative leads, the Australian share market sank on open and is 0.67 per cent down at noon. The plunging oil price is spooking investors worldwide with the energy sector facing cost cuts, job losses and mergers as well as delays in investment decisions should the soft prices be here to stay. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 33 points down at 5,332. On the futures market the SPI is 24 points lower. 
Economic news

The AiG performances of services index (PSI) has reported a rise of 3.7 points to 47.5 in December. That’s still below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction and suggests enduring weakness since the 2008 GFC is continuing.
Company news
Benitec Biopharma Limited (ASX:BLT) has advised that a third patient in the clinical trial of its TT-034 treatment of Hepatitis C has been dosed. Two earlier patients have shown no adverse effects and the new patient received an increased dose of the potential óne shot’ cure for hepatitis C. The patient will be monitored for six weeks before the results are reviewed. If the treatment shows positive results the other two patients will also received a larger dose. Shares in Benitec Biopharma are trading down 3.55 per cent at $0.95. 
Ensogo Limited (ASX:E88) has responded to an ASX price query saying it is in talks with potential equity partners. A media article in the Australian flagged an imminent equity deal to potentially turn the business around. Ensogo says it is involved in discussions with a number of potential strategic investors however discussions are not sufficiently advanced to inform shareholders or the ASX and there is no guarantee a transaction will arise. Ensogo pledged to keep the market informed of any developments. Shares in Ensogo have slipped 6.9 per cent t $0.14. 
Best and worst performers

The only sector making gains is real estate investment trusts, up 0.5 per cent to 1,203. Shares in Westfield Corporation have risen 1.73 per cent and trading at $9.41. Shares in Cromwell Group and Charter Hall are also stronger. 
The worst performing sector is energy, falling 1.72 per cent to 10,919. Shares in AWE have fallen 6.15 per cent, trading at $1.22. Shares in Beach Energy and Liquefied Natural Gas are also lower. 

Appen Limited (APX) started trading today. The linguistic services company floated with an issue price of $0.50, opened at $0.50 and is currently trading at $0.50.    
Gold and the dollar

Gold is trading at $US1,219 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying 80.66 US cents.

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