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A trader studies a graph on a screen at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX) in Moscow May 23, 2006. (ALEXANDER NATRUSKIN/REUTERS)
A trader studies a graph on a screen at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX) in Moscow May 23, 2006. (ALEXANDER NATRUSKIN/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX moves lower ahead of jobs data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was lower Thursday while traders prepared to take in the release of job creation data Friday and European leaders considered sanctions against Russia.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 17.65 points to 14,286.52.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.59 of a cent to 91.19 cents (U.S.) amid a better than expected read on building permits in January.

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U.S. indexes were higher with the Dow Jones industrials up 78.52 points to 16,438.7, the Nasdaq gained 6.08 points to 4,364.05 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 6.77 points to 1,880.58.

Harsh winter conditions have crimped job creation, and expectations for the February U.S. non-farm payrolls report are muted. Economists expect the report to show around 145,000 new positions were created last month.

There was positive news out ahead of that data. Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, declined to 323,000 last week from 348,000, the lowest level in three months.

In Canada, analysts expect the report to show the economy created about 15,000 jobs last month, according to Thomson Reuters.

Markets were monitoring developments in Ukraine following a rocky start to the week after Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula where it has major military installations and many people are Russian speaking.

European leaders said Thursday that Russia will face sanctions unless it withdraws its troops from Crimea or engages in credible talks to defuse the situation.

But analysts point out that markets are trying to take a pragmatic approach to the issue.

“It doesn’t matter economically,” said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds Inc.

“The reality is there is no economic pie to fight over. If the Russians rolled into Iran, different story because you’re talking oil, you’re taking something economic that is of interest in the West. As opposed to wheat and potatoes.”

On the corporate front, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said its quarterly adjusted net income came in at 52 cents per share, four cents below estimates. Cash flow per share was $1.64, which was 10 cents below the estimate. Its quarterly dividend will rise to 22.5 cents per shares, up two cents and its shares slipped 12 cents to $40.58.

Engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group reported a quarterly profit of $92.54-million or 61 cents a share, down from $93.84-million a year ago, missing forecasts by a penny. Revenue fell to $2.12-billion in the fourth quarter, down $300-million from a year earlier and its shares fell $1.41 to $46.96.

Auto parts maker Linamar Corp. posted quarterly net earnings of $68.7-million or $1.06 per share, compared with $30.7-million or 47 cents in the same 2012 period. Revenue increased to $926.1-million from $756.5-million and Linamar increased its quarterly dividend by 25 per cent to 10 cents a share. Its shares ran up $1.97 to $51.27.

The base metals sector led advancers, up two per cent with May copper one cent higher at $3.21 (U.S.) a pound.

April crude was down 13 cents to $101.32 a barrel and the energy sector was 0.15 per cent ahead.

The gold sector was slightly higher while April bullion rose $5.30 to $1,345.40 an ounce.

Techs led decliners, down 0.7 per cent.

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