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The Toronto Stock Exchange Broadcast Centre is shown in Toronto on June 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
The Toronto Stock Exchange Broadcast Centre is shown in Toronto on June 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

At midday: Stocks hold steady despite geopolitical worries Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was little changed Friday as traders played it cautious going into the long Labour Day weekend amid fears of a wider Russian invasion into Ukraine and a big letdown in U.S. consumer spending data.

The S&P/TSX composite index edged 7.26 points higher to 15,565.43.

The Canadian dollar was unchanged at 92.19 cents US amid data that also showed stronger than expected Canadian economic growth.

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Statistics Canada reported gross domestic product ran up at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent in the second quarter, higher than the 2.7 per cent read that economists had expected. First-quarter growth, which was affected by a severe winter, was revised down to a gain of 0.9 per cent compared with an earlier reading of 1.2 per cent.

On a monthly basis, GDP climbed 0.3 per cent in June versus the 0.2 per cent rise that was forecast.

U.S. indexes were mixed as other data showed consumer spending dropped 0.1 per cent last month, against the gain of 0.3 per cent that was generally expected, with weakness most pronounced in the auto sector.

The Dow Jones industrials declined 1.75 points to 17,077.82, the Nasdaq ran ahead 16.76 points to 4,574.45 and the S&P 500 index was up 3.7 points to 2,000.44.

Other data showed a sharp uptick in manufacturing activity in the American Midwest. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index surged to 64.3 in August from 56.5 in July.

Investors watched the Ukraine conflict for signs of further escalation after the country’s president reported that Russian forces had entered the southeastern part of the country, which had largely escaped earlier fighting between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian militias.

European Union foreign ministers were meeting on Friday to weigh adopting a tougher stance on the Ukraine crisis amid increasing calls to beef up economic sanctions against Russia.

The tepid performance Friday also comes at a time when indexes are close to record highs, raising questions about what is needed to push markets even higher.

“It’s a common thing, eventually, the markets fully price in everything,” observed Colin Cieszynski, senior markets analyst at CMC Markets Canada.

North American markets appeared set for small gains for this past week with advances led by consumer staples, industrials and telecoms. But the market was held back by the financial sector, down 1.15 per cent this week despite a steady parade of earnings news from the big Canadian banks that largely beat expectations.

But stock prices for the big banks were at or near record or 52-week highs as the results started to come out a week ago and the financial sector is still up 11 per cent year to date.

“There was nothing wrong with the earnings reports, they were fine,” added Cieszynski.

“But because expectations were running so high, people just used it as an excuse to take profits again. But they’ll be back.”

The financial sector led TSX decliners Friday, down 0.2 per cent.

Resource sectors provided lift with the gold sector ahead 1.15 per cent while December gold backed off $2 to US$1,288.40 an ounce.

December copper gained two cents to US$3.17 a pound and the base metals component climbed 0.4 per cent.

The energy sector rose 0.5 per cent as October crude in New York gained 61 cents to US$95.16 a barrel.

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