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Cars drive past Ukrainian self-propelled artillery guns near Slaviansk on Sept. 3, 2014. (GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)
Cars drive past Ukrainian self-propelled artillery guns near Slaviansk on Sept. 3, 2014. (GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)

At midday: Markets mixed on possible Ukraine ceasefire, economic data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was positive as markets hoped a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine can hold and traders looked for a relaxation in sanctions levied against Russia.

The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 42.36 points to 15,661.44.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.33 of a cent to 91.82 cents (U.S.) as the Bank of Canada said it was leaving its key rate unchanged at one per cent. Markets generally expect the central bank to start upping rates around the middle of next year.

U.S. indexes were mainly higher with the Dow Jones industrials up 57.76 points to 17,125.32, the Nasdaq slipped 9.22 points to 4,588.97 and the S&P 500 index rose 3.04 points to 2,005.32.

There was relief on the markets after the office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin are in agreement on a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, the scene of heavy fighting between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian militias.

However, there have been previous statements of agreements on steps for peace, but the conflict has only intensified.

“The announcement suggests that tensions in the region could start easing and another round of sanctions against Russia won’t be forthcoming (assuming the steps to the cease-fire are followed),” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Benjamin Reitzes.

Meanwhile, the financial costs of the tensions between Ukraine and Russia were highlighted in the latest business activity gauge for the euro zone from financial information company Markit.

Its purchasing managers’ index fell to 52.5 points in August from July’s three-month high of 53.8.

It is a heavy week for economic data with traders particularly focused on the release Friday of the U.S. government’s employment report for August. Economists forecast that the American economy created about 220,000 jobs during the month.

Data out Wednesday showed that business orders for U.S. factory goods shot up by a record amount in July, up 10.5 per cent in a reflection of demand in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. But outside transportation, orders actually fell 0.8 per cent and a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans fell 0.7 per cent.

Most TSX sectors were positive, paced by a 0.5 per cent gain in financials.

The base metals component rose 0.8 per cent in the metals and mining sector as December copper declined two cents to $3.13 (U.S.) a pound.

December bullion rose $3 to $1,268 an ounce and the gold sector gained 0.1 per cent.

The energy sector turned negative, down 0.1 per cent as October crude gained $1.37 to $94.25 a barrel after tumbling $3 on Tuesday.

In corporate developments, convenience store and gasoline station operator Alimentation Couche-Tard reported its quarterly net income rose 5.7 per cent to $269.5-million (Canadian) or 47 cents a share. It also announced that it’s increasing its quarterly shareholder dividend by half a cent to 4.5 cents per share, and its shares ran ahead $1.41 to $34.64.

Automakers were out with August sales figures and General Motors reported its U.S. sales fell 1.2 per cent last month as rising truck and SUV sales couldn’t offset falling car sales. The company said it sold 272,423 vehicles last month and its shares slipped 11 cents to $34.68 (U.S.).

Ford’s U.S. sales were flat in August as slowing pickup truck sales masked gains elsewhere and its shares edged six cents higher to $17.66.

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