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In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, file photo, trader Nicholas DeStafano, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)
In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, file photo, trader Nicholas DeStafano, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)

At midday: TSX, loonie up as Bank of Canada leaves rate at 1% Add to ...

Gold stocks helped push the Toronto stock market slightly higher Wednesday as investors continued to monitor the standoff between Russia and Ukraine.

They also digested disappointing U.S. private sector employment data two days before the release of the government’s jobs report for February.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 5.16 points to 14,295.02.

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The Canadian currency was ahead 0.36 of a cent to 90.45 cents (U.S.) as the Bank of Canada announced it was leaving its key rate unchanged at one per cent.

Also, Quebec premier Pauline Marois confirmed that Quebecers will go to the polls on April 7.

U.S. indexes were mixed as payroll firm ADP reported the private sector created 139,000 jobs during the month, short of the 160,000 that was expected. Economists looked for Friday’s report to show that overall, about 150,000 jobs were created last month.

The Dow Jones industrials dipped 8.67 points to 16,387.21, the Nasdaq was 7.72 points higher to 4,359.69 while the S&P 500 index added 2.32 points to 1,876.23.

It’s been a volatile week after Russian troops invaded Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula over the weekend.

But markets calmed down Tuesday after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases. He also said he hopes that Russia, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, won’t need to use force in eastern Ukraine.

Analysts continued to caution that there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the issue and that could impact markets further.

“What you saw yesterday is some hope (and) whether that hope is justified or not remains to be seen,” said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer of fundamental Canadian equities at BMO Global Asset Management.

“It’s still not obvious how this will be played out in terms of finding a diplomatic face saving solution for both sides.”

Meanwhile, the European Union is proposing to provide Ukraine an 11 billion euro aid package in loans and grants over the coming years.

In earnings news, media company Torstar Corp. had $20.6-million or 26 cents a share of quarterly net income, little changed a year earlier. Revenue from Torstar’s newspaper and book divisions was $366.5-million, down seven per cent from a year earlier, although the media divisions revenue was up from the third quarter and its shares jumped 43 cents or 8.53 per cent to $5.47.

Laurentian Bank of Canada had $35.5-million of net income in its fiscal first quarter, up eight per cent from a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were $39.3-million or $1.29 per share compared with $39.1-million or $1.30 per share last year and its shares slipped 23 cents to $46.27.

The gold sector led gainers, up 0.9 per cent while April bullion edged up 60 cents to $1,338.50 (U.S.) an ounce.

The base metals sector was ahead 0.4 per cent with May copper one cent lower at $3.21 a pound.

The tech sector led decliners, down 0.5 per cent.

The energy sector lost 0.2 per cent while April crude in New York declined $1.04 to $102.29 a barrel.

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