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Traders gather at a post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (Richard Drew/AP)
Traders gather at a post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (Richard Drew/AP)

At midday: Losses accelerate for TSX, Dow Add to ...

The Toronto stock market moved deeper into the red Thursday amid a mixed string of earnings reports and geopolitical concerns centred around Russia.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 97.92 points to 15,104.17.

The Canadian dollar was off 0.08 of a cent to 91.55 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were mixed as the Dow Jones industrials declined 14.67 points to 16,428.67, the Nasdaq gained 4.35 points to 4,359.4 and the S&P 500 index was ahead down 1.1 points to 1,919.14.

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Ongoing tensions continued over the crisis in Ukraine amid fresh Russian sanctions on the West. Markets had initially shrugged off the standoff with Ukraine last month but tensions have been growing lately as traders worry about Russia getting more involved in the Ukraine government’s fight against pro-Russian rebels.

“It has heightened up, I think it has caused nervousness to the markets for sure, and it’s definitely something that needs to be continually watched,” said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investment.

The sanctions war heated up Thursday after Russia banned most food imports from the West in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine.

Earlier in the morning, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi cautioned that the crisis in Ukraine could weigh on the fragile economic recovery in the eurozone. He said the fallout from Ukraine was “hard to assess” but that sanctions and countersanctions could increase the impact.

On the earnings front, there was particular interest in the insurance sector where Manulife Financial boosted its quarterly dividend 2.5 cents to 15.5 cents a share. It is the first dividend hike since 2009, when it chopped the payment by half. Core earnings, which exclude extraordinary items, rose to 36 cents a share from 31 cents, four cents below expectations. Its shares gained 16 cents to $22.13.

The dividend came as a surprise to investors who hadn’t expected Manulife to start upping its dividend until next year.

“Dividend increases are a good sign and (as) we look at insurance companies as a whole, the outlook is quite bright,” added Adatia.

Elsewhere, Air Canada said quarterly net income grew to $223-million, or 75 cents per share, compared to a loss of $23-million, or nine cents per share, a year ago. Operating revenues grew to $3.3-billion from $3.06-billion in the comparable period. Its shares fell 42 cents or 4.5 per cent to $8.84.

Canadian Tire Corp. posted second-quarter net income of $178.9-million, or $2.12 per share, compared to $154.9-million or $1.91 a year earlier and above the consensus estimate of $2.02. Revenue increased to $3.17-billion from $3.02-billion and shares gained $4.16 to $108.69.

BCE Inc. profits grew 6.1 per cent in the second quarter to $606-million, or 78 cents per share as the company benefited from new revenue sources tied to its acquisition of Astral Media. Adjusted earnings grew to 82 cents per share from 77 cents, a cent short of estimates. Operating revenues increased 4.4 per cent to $5.22-billion and its shares dipped 35 cents to $48.53.

The energy sector was off 0.8 per cent as the September crude contract in New York fell 25 cents to US$96.67 a barrel.

The base metals component declined 0.6 per cent as September copper gained a cent to US$3.17.

The gold sector was also a weight on the TSX, down 0.35 per cent while December bullion climbed 20 cents to US$1,308.40 an ounce.

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