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A trader looks up at charts on his screen just before the end of trading for the day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 18, 2013. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
A trader looks up at charts on his screen just before the end of trading for the day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 18, 2013. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX slightly lower on sinking commodity prices Add to ...

Mining stocks pushed the resource-heavy Toronto stock market slightly lower Monday while commodities fell amid weak Chinese trade data.

The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 13.22 points to 14,285.86.

The weak economic data from overseas coupled with Friday’s weak employment report pushed the Canadian dollar down 0.17 of a cent to 90 cents (U.S.) after sliding 0.1 per cent last week.

Data released Monday from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. showed the pace of housing starts picked up in February. They rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 192,094 starts, up from 180,481 in January and the first month-month increase since October.

New York indexes were also in the red as the Dow Jones industrials lost 96.09 points to 16,356.63, the Nasdaq was down 21.41 points to 4,314.81 while the S&P 500 index was off 8.33 points to 1,869.71.

Data released on the weekend showed China’s exports fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February.

China’s official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 per cent.

“For the world’s second-largest economy to add seven per cent to output is still a meaningful contribution to global growth,” said Craig Fehr, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

“But the trajectory is slowing and that’s concerning and Chinese officials are trying to orchestrate this transition from a hyper growth economy that was dependent upon public investment to a domestic economy — and that’s not a smooth transition.”

The base metals sector led TSX losers, down 2.85 per cent as copper prices fell for a second session in the wake of the Chinese data, with the May contract in New York losing another three cents to $3.05 (U.S.) a pound. Prices for the metal tumbled 14 cents Friday after Chinese authorities allowed the country’s first corporate bond default, which fuelled speculation as to how many more companies may be in a similar situation.

The energy sector lost 0.3 per cent while the weak overseas data pushed the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down $1.60 to$100.98 a barrel.

Bullion prices erased early losses and the April contract up $6.20 to $1,344.40 and the gold sector rose 0.2 per cent.

On the corporate front, Quebecor shares dipped 14 cents to $25.16 (Canadian) a day after Pierre Karl Péladeau, until recently the head of the media conglomerate, announced that he’s going to run for the Parti Quebecois. Péladeau resigned Sunday as Quebecor vice-chairman.

The Second Cup Ltd. recorded net income of $1.18-million or 12 cents a share, improved from the year earlier loss of $12-million a year ago when Second Cup recognized the impaired value of its assets. Adjusted earnings per share was 17 cents, down from 18.2 cents per share a year earlier. Its shares were down one cent $4.79.

In the U.S., Chiquita will combine with Dublin-based Fyffes to become the world’s top banana company. The stock-for-stock transaction creates a global banana and fresh produce company with $4.6-billion (U.S.) in annual revenues. Chiquita rose 12.2 per cent, to $12.16.


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