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A Chinese national flag is seen near a construction site in Shanghai's financial district June 1, 2012. (Reuters)
A Chinese national flag is seen near a construction site in Shanghai's financial district June 1, 2012. (Reuters)

At the open: Stocks little changed Add to ...

Toronto's stock markets opened up Thursday, as traders mulled more negative economic signals in the U.S., Europe and China.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index was up 37.58 to 11,818.62 , a rise of 0.319 per cent

U.S. stocks opened little changed on Thursday as hopes about European Central Bank action to tackle the bloc’s crisis grew stale, giving way to angst after European and U.S. equity benchmarks hit multi-month highs.

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The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 13.01 points, or 0.10 per cent, to 13,162.63. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 1.75 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 1,400.47. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.89 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 3,012.14.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000. While the less volatile four-week average rose by 2,250 to 368,250 in the week that ended Aug. 4, both figures put the country more comfortably in the direction of lower unemployment.

When applications consistently fall below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the jobless rate.

Also on Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level in 18 months in June thanks to a steep drop in oil imports and a small rise in exports. Overseas sales of autos, pharmaceuticals, and industrial machinery increased, even in economically besieged Europe.

Still, economists are concerned that the global economic downturn could slow a recovery in the U.S. and on Thursday there was more unsettling news from China, the world's second-largest economy.

China's factory output grew at the slowest pace in three years last month and retail sales weakened. Beijing is already putting into place stimulus measures, but some economists say policy makers must act even more aggressively.

In Canadian corporate results, Canadian Tire said Thursday it earned $133.7-million or $1.63 per diluted share in the second quarter, up from $105.8-million or $1.29 per diluted share a year ago. Revenue grew to $2.99-billion, up from $2.57-billion.

With files from the Associated Press

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