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Specialist Robert Canzani speaks with traders on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, March 28, 2013. The S&P 500 set a record closing high on Thursday, finishing a fifth consecutive month of gains to extend a four-year rally. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Specialist Robert Canzani speaks with traders on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, March 28, 2013. The S&P 500 set a record closing high on Thursday, finishing a fifth consecutive month of gains to extend a four-year rally. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At the open: Traders put the brakes on Add to ...

The Toronto stock market started second-quarter trading flat as oil and metal prices failed to find lift from positive U.S. and Chinese manufacturing data.

The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 4.62 points to 12,745.28, as traders awaited a key reading of the American manufacturing sector later in the morning. The Canadian dollar was down 0.11 of a cent to 98.32 cents U.S.

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U.S. indexes were also tepid ahead of the release of the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for March.

The Dow Jones industrial average was 10.6 points lower to 14,567.94, the Nasdaq composite index slipped 0.02 of a point to 3,267.5 while the S&P 500 index was down 1.11 points to 1,568.08 after the index hit a record high on Friday. And oil fell $1.09 to $96.14 (U.S.) a barrel.

U.S. manufacturing growth picked up in March as new orders increased and hiring quickened, closing out the best quarter for the sector in two years, a survey showed on Monday.

Financial data firm Markit said its U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 54.6 last month from 54.3 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

“It is encouraging to see the upturn generating more jobs, with the survey suggesting that approximately 15,000 extra employees were taken on in the sector in March,” Williamson said.

The broader U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in February as the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 per cent, the lowest in more than four years. But economists fear government belt-tightening could slow the labour market’s momentum as the year goes on.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing’s manufacturing index picked up in March in a potentially positive sign for the recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.

However, analysts said investors remained worried about a possible property bubble, inflation and what policies the new Chinese government might have in store.

The euro, meanwhile, was flat after approaching a four-month low earlier on concerns about the spillover from Cyprus’ bailout terms.

At the weekend, the Cypriot central bank confirmed that major depositors in Cyprus’s biggest bank would lose around 60 per cent of savings over 100,000 euros, well above the initially touted cut of 30 to 40 per cent.

Trading, however, was thin, with many markets still closed for Easter holidays. But the mood was cautious ahead of the European Central Bank’s monetary policy review on Thursday and the monthly U.S. payroll data out on Friday.

“We’re seeing safe-haven flows from the Australian and New Zealand dollars into the yen because of the weak Chinese data,” said Ravi Bharadwaj, market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington.

With files from Reuters

Inside the Market editor Darcy Keith will return tomorrow.

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