TSX lower as gold slips US markets higher

The Toronto stock market pulled back on Thursday, with gold and mining stocks leading the decline, alongside a decision by the European Central Bank to keep its key policy rate unchanged.The S&P/TSX composite index slid 57.58 points to 14,401.53 in morning trading, while the Canadian dollar was up 0.17 of a cent at 90.79 cents US.The TSX gold sector was the biggest decliner as the bullion for June delivery moved down $5.20 at US$1,285.60 an ounce.The ECB said that despite evidence the economy of the 18-country eurozone is weak and inflation is going down, interest rates will stay the same. The ECB’s key rate is already at a record-low 0.25 per cent.In economic data, Statistics Canada reported that merchandise exports grew 3.6 per cent, while imports were up 2.1 per cent in February. The agency said Canada’s trade balance with the world went to a surplus of $290 million in February from a deficit of $337 million in January.On Wall Street, both the Dow and S&P have touched new intraday records after reports after a new U.S. hiring report.The Labor Department said that while the number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose by 16,000 last week, to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the figure is close to what was seen before the recession, and indicates that hiring remains stable.The Dow Jones Industrials moved ahead 3.15 points to 16,576.15 while the Nasdaq dipped 1.31 points to 4,275.15.The S&P 500 index lifted 0.16 of a point to 1,891.06, after closing at a new high on Wednesday.In commodities, the price of oil remained below US$100 a barrel with the May contract for light crude were down four cents at US$99.58. May copper dropped 1.5 cents at US$3.03 a pound.Toronto’s main stock index has been on a tear, rising nearly six per cent since the start of the year and near levels that haven’t been seen since the summer of 2008. However, questions have persisted over whether the S&P/TSX Composite is headed toward a ceiling.“Now that interest rates are rising, the stock markets are going to reflect higher costs to borrow and only an increase in efficiency of companies will be able to overcome the higher costs,” said Bob Tebbutt of Peregrine Financial Group Canada Inc.“Therefore the latest market moves, viewed on a daily basis, seem to be running into resistance, as they should, with higher borrowing costs.”In corporate developments, Fortis Inc. (TSX:FTS), one of Canada’s largest utility companies, have received approval from U.S. regulators for its $4.3-billion purchase of UNS Energy Corp., an Arizona-based electricity and gas utility company, expanding its reach in the United States. Fortis shares were down two cents to $31.46.Retailer Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) says the acquisition of U.S. luxury retailer Saks helped sales increase nearly 75 per cent in the fourth quarter, while its profits dropped about 66 per cent, to $29.1 million from $86.8 million a year ago. Shares of the company backed off 96 cents to $17.86.Montreal-based clothing retailer Reitmans (Canada) Ltd. (TSX:RET.A) posted a deeper net loss of $2.57 million in its fourth quarter, or four cents per dilulted share, compared to a loss of $1.14 million, or two cents, in the same period a year earlier. Sales were $240.68 million versus $267.66 million a year earlier. Reitman shares rose 26 cents to $6.22.China’s leaders unveiled a mini-stimulus program aimed at shoring up sputtering growth in the world’s No. 2 economy.Under the plan, China’s small businesses will get bigger tax breaks, social housing will be built to replace shantytowns and railway construction will be sped up. Premier Li Keqiang announced the measures after a regular meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet.European bourses were mixed. London’s FTSE 100 index gained 0.03 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.18 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 rose 0.68 per cent.In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.84 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.18 per cent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.74 per cent.

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