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A worker displays a solar panel at a workshop in Chint Solar Co.’s factory in Hangzhou, in China’s Zhejiang province. (LANG LANG/Reuters)
A worker displays a solar panel at a workshop in Chint Solar Co.’s factory in Hangzhou, in China’s Zhejiang province. (LANG LANG/Reuters)

At midday: TSX slightly lower amid China growth worries Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was lower as disappointing industrial production data added to China growth concerns that have pressured markets all week.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 22.64 points to 14,296.36. The Canadian dollar rose 0.45 of a cent to 90.41 cents (U.S.).

New York was lower despite a solid retail sales report and the Dow industrials were down 44.52 points to 16,295.56. Sales rose 0.3 per cent following a 0.6 per cent drop in January, better than the 0.2 per cent climb that economists had expected.

The Nasdaq dropped 15.53 points to 4,309.8 and the S&P 500 index slipped 3.96 points to 1,864.24.

Chinese industrial production rose by a lower than anticipated 8.6 per cent in the first two months of this year.

Also, China’s premier Li Keqiang said that his country will keep this year’s economic expansion strong enough to create new jobs but will emphasize market-opening reform and the environment over hitting its official growth target of 7.5 per cent.

“So, the Wild East is over now, and they’re moving to a more managed scenario, they’re going to tighten the screws,” said Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Private Client Group.

“And sure, it’s a slower growth, more micromanaged kind of environment and in the long run, it’s good, in the short run, it’s got the commodity guys nervous.”

Copper prices have slid more than eight per cent over the past four sessions while the TSX base metals segment has by far been the worst performer this week, down 8.5 per cent.

The May contract for the metal was unchanged at $2.96 (U.S.) a pound Thursday and the TSX base metals sector was flat.

It’s not just demand concerns that have weighted on copper. The metal is used as much for financing transactions as industrial applications and worries about corporate defaults have prompted worries that a wave of such failures could result in a massive liquidation of copper on the markets.

Oil prices have also slid this week but on Thursday, crude edged up 33 cents to $98.32 a barrel and the TSX energy sector moved up 0.32 per cent.

Bullion prices also shifted lower after surging $24 Wednesday amid concerns centred around the Ukraine-Russian conflict.

The April contract slipped $2.30 to $1,368.20 an ounce but the gold sector was the leading advancer, up 0.6 per cent.

The consumer staples sector fell 0.9 per cent while shares in Empire Company Ltd. fell $2.19 (Canadian) to $68.03 as the parent of supermarket chain Sobeys Inc. reported that quarterly net earnings slumped to $400,000 or nil per diluted share compared with $74.1-million or $1.09 per share in the year-earlier period. Ex-items, earnings were 84 cents per share, below analysts’ estimate of $1.23 per share.

The consumer discretion sector was off 0.6 per cent as media giant Quebecor Inc. posted quarterly net income of $62.5-million, up from $6.2-million a year earlier. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations came in at $68-million, or 55 cents per share while revenues remained relatively flat at $1.12-billion. Analysts had called for 53 cents of adjusted earnings on $1.15-billion in revenues and its shares dipped three cents to $24.91.

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