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Traders wait for the opening price of Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., during the company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, shortly after the opening bell in the Manhattan borough of New York January 23, 2014. Shares of Santander Consumer USA Holding Inc, the auto-finance unit of Spanish bank Santander SA , rose as much as 10 percent in their U.S. market debut as investors expect the company to benefit from rising auto sales (LUCAS JACKSO/REUTER)
Traders wait for the opening price of Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., during the company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, shortly after the opening bell in the Manhattan borough of New York January 23, 2014. Shares of Santander Consumer USA Holding Inc, the auto-finance unit of Spanish bank Santander SA , rose as much as 10 percent in their U.S. market debut as investors expect the company to benefit from rising auto sales (LUCAS JACKSO/REUTER)

At midday: TSX heads lower amid China concerns Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was lower Tuesday as concerns about China’s economy depressed commodity prices and resource stocks while two major banks posted solid earnings reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 29.35 points to 14,197.73.

Bank of Montreal had $1.06-billion or $1.58 of net income in the first quarter, up two per cent from a year earlier and five cents higher than forecast. Adjusted net income was $1.08-billion or $1.61 a share, which was also ahead of estimates.

National Bank’s quarterly net income totalled $405-million or $1.15 per diluted share, up from $373-million or $1.05 per share in the same 2013 period. Ex-items, earnings were $384-million or $1.09 per share, well above expectations of $1.05 per share.

Bank of Montreal was up 48 cents to $73.05 while National Bank edged up 43 cents to $44.04.

“Wealth management and capital markets have been a real driver in year over year earnings growth for the banks which they needed,” said Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager and vice president at First Avenue Advisory in Ottawa, a Raymond James company.

“They needed some catalyst to replace the fact that personal and commercial banking has been fairly sluggish and slowing, especially with consumer loan growth decelerating.”

The Canadian dollar slipped 0.15 of a cent to 90.21 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were slightly higher amid data showing that U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as severe winter weather, tight supply and higher costs combined to slow sales.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 per cent from November to December.

The Dow Jones industrials was up 22 points to 16,229.14, the Nasdaq climbed 8.09 points to 4,301.06, while the S&P 500 index was ahead 2.37 points to 1,849.98.

Other data showed a dip in American consumer confidence. The Conference Board’s index showed the index declined to 78.1 in February from 79.4 in January because of adverse weather conditions.

Commodity prices declined with markets rattled by a deceleration in the rise of Chinese housing prices in January and weakness in China’s currency.

Last week’s decline in the tightly controlled yuan prompted suggestions Beijing might be trying to support exporters and help offset weakening domestic demand. That came after an HSBC survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity in February tumbled to a seven-month low.

The base metals component was off 1.1 per cent while March copper fell for a second day, down two cents to $3.25 a pound.

The energy sector drifted one per cent lower as the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.27 to $101.55 a barrel.

April bullion gained $3.30 to $1,341.30 an ounce and the gold sector faded about 0.5 per cent.

The tech sector was up almost one per cent as BlackBerry continued to benefit from a report from Bloomberg that automaker Ford will base its next-generation Sync system on the smartphone maker’s QNX and no longer use a system from Microsoft. Its shares ran up $1.18 or 10.86 per cent to $12.05 on top of a gain of almost seven per cent on Monday.

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