The Toronto stock market was slightly lower near midday Thursday amid several weak earnings reports from heavily weighted companies.
The S&P/TSX composite index was off 9.06 points at 12,102, while the TSX Venture Exchange lifted 14.75 points to 1,385.87.
The Canadian dollar moved down 0.01 of a cent to 101.67 cents (U.S.).
The TSX materials sector was off 0.8 per cent as Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan disappointed on its first-quarter earnings with sales and profit down even more than analysts expected.
Canada's largest fertilizer company said net income fell to $491-million (U.S.) or 56 cents per share in the first three months of 2012, down from record high $732-million or 84 cents per share in the first quarter of 2011. Potash shares dropped three per cent or $1.22 to $42.43.
Domtar Corp. said its first-quarter profit fell sharply from the same time last year, missing analyst estimates, as it felt the impact of lower global prices for pulp and higher costs.
The Montreal-based company posted net income or 76 cents per share. That's down from $133-million (U.S.) or $3.14 per share in the comparable period of 2011. Its shares were off seven per cent to $87.73.
Oil prices were higher with the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 59 cents to $104.71 (U.S.) a barrel.
Gold bullion prices increased $14.80 to $1,657.10 (U.S.) an ounce.
Goldcorp Inc. shares were impacted by the company's disappointing first-quarter results as it faced difficult conditions at its Red Lake mine and lower grade ore. Late Wednesday, the company reported a first-quarter profit of $479-million (U.S.) or 51 cents per diluted share, down from $651-million or 81 cents per diluted share a year ago. Its stock dropped 5.8 per cent, or $2.36, to $38.13.
Copper prices headed higher, up seven cents to $3.77 (U.S.) a pound.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones tracked 45 points higher to 13,136, the Nasdaq futures gained four points to 3,033 and the S&P 500 futures moved ahead a point to 1,392.
Several big-name companies fell after reporting first-quarter earnings. Aetna, the health insurer, was one of the biggest losers in the morning. It plummeted 10 per cent after reporting that it is paying more in medical claims.
Earnings reports at other companies also underscored concerns that the impact of Europe's debt crisis will ripple across the ocean. Dow Chemical, the largest U.S. chemical maker, and UPS, the package delivery company, both fell on concern over European economies.
Meanwhile, a U.S. report by the National Association of Realtors to measure the number of people who have signed contracts for home purchases rose to its highest level in nearly two years.
And the U.S. government reported that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits was little changed last week, stoking more uncertainty about when and if companies will return to pre-recession levels of hiring.
Imperial Oil Ltd. says its first-quarter profit was up 30 per cent from the same time last year, rising slightly above $1-billion, or $1.19 per share and coming in ahead of analyst expectations.
Husky Energy Inc. posted earnings of $591-million or 60 cents per diluted share as it reported that higher oil production and prices offset tighter refining margins and lower natural gas prices. The results compared with $626-million or 70 cents in the prior-year period when the company recorded an after-tax gain of $143-million on the sale of non-core assets. Its shares rose 52 cents, or 2.14 per cent, to $24.82.
Power producer TransAlta Corp. posted quarterly earnings of $89-million or 40 cents per share after a sharp drop in profits as it was hit by lower prices and an increase in maintenance activities. The results compared with a profit of $204-million or 92 cents per share a year ago. TransAlta stock was down 27 cents at $16.45.
Forest products company Tembec Inc. widely missed analyst forecasts with a $14-million loss, or 14 cents per share, on a 10 per cent drop in sales in the second quarter to $407-million. Its shares were down 6.9 per cent or 24 cents at $3.24.
In Europe, the rebound of earlier this week ground to a halt amid further evidence of a sharp slowdown in the economy of the 17 countries that use the euro.
Adding to the gloom was a survey from the European Commission showing economic sentiment in the euro zone down more than expected. Its main indicator fell from 94.5 to 92.8, much worse than consensus expectations for a more modest decline to 94.
In recent weeks, there has been an increasing backlash against the austerity drive in many European countries amid worries that governments will be unable to deliver their debt-reduction plans as their economies tank.
In Europe, Germany's DAX up 0.33 per cent while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.25 per cent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.15 per cent higher.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed slightly ahead at 9,561.83 as traders proceeded with caution ahead of the Bank of Japan's policy-setting meeting Friday.
South Korea's Kospi also zigzagged until finally setting 0.1 per cent higher at 1,964.04. Hong Kong's Hang Seng posted a 0.8 per cent gain to 20,809.71. In mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index edged 0.1 per cent lower to 2,404.70.Report Typo/Error
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