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(Richard Drew)
(Richard Drew)

At the open: Stocks, commodities fall Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was lower amid falling commodity prices, glum news from China’s financial sector and mixed earnings reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index lost 14.3 points to 13,233.76 after six straight advances. The market found lift from strong earnings reports from Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) and Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP).

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Lower prices for oil and copper helped push the Canadian dollar down 0.36 of a cent to 96.83 cents US ahead of the Bank of Canada’s latest interest rate announcement at 10 a.m. ET.

U.S. indexes were also lower after a string of gains as traders took in positive earnings from Boeing and a disappointment from Caterpillar.

The Dow Jones industrials lost 40.43 points to 15,427.23, the Nasdaq declined 22.1 points to 3,907.46 and the S&P 500 index was down 6.62 points to 1,748.05.

Canada’s two largest railroads both reported strong earnings results that beat analyst estimates on several key measures.

Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) said after the close Tuesday that quarterly profits climbed 6.1 per cent to $705-million. CN also posted adjusted earnings of $1.72 a share, a dime better than estimates. Revenue came in at $2.7-billion, against estimates of $2.64-billion and its shares ran up $2.44 to $112.19 after hitting a new 52-week high of $112.75.

On Wednesday, Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) posted record earnings and the lowest operating ratio in its history in the third quarter as revenue rose by six per cent from last year to $1.5-billion. CP’s net income was $324-million or $1.84 per diluted share, up from $224-million or $1.30 per share in the third quarter of 2012. CP’s operating ratio improved to 65.9 per cent, down from 74.1 per cent. Its shares jumped $4.86 to $139.60.

Electronics manufacturer Celestica Inc. (TSX:CLS) reported an increase in third-quarter net earnings despite a decline in revenue as a result of last year’s loss of its manufacturing contract with BlackBerry (TSX:BB). Celestica says net earnings improved to US$57.4-million or 31 cents per share from $43.7-million or 21 cents in the prior-year period.

Revenue slumped to US$1.49-billion from more than US$1.57-billion in the 2012 quarter and its shares gained 35 cents to $11.13.

Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) says it had US$150-million or 20 cents per share in operating earnings in the third quarter, a big drop from $263-million a year ago but better than expected. The Canadian natural gas giant also said it is also reducing its 2013 target range for capital spending to between $2.7-billion and $2.9-billion.

Its shares were unchanged at $18.79.

It was a mixed bag in the U.S. where Caterpillar shares were down $5.14 or 5.76 per cent to US$84.03 after the maker of heavy equipment cut its 2013 revenue forecast to US$55-billion from earlier estimates of $56-billion to $58-billion.

Caterpillar earned $946-million, or $1.45 a share, in the third quarter, down from $1.7-billion, or $2.54 a share, a year ago. Total sales and revenue fell to $13.42-billion from $16.45-billion. Analysts expected earnings of $1.68 a share on revenue of $14.29-billion.

Aircraft maker Boeing reported third-quarter profit rose 12 per cent to $1.2-billion, or $1.51 a share. Ex-items, earnings per shares came in at $1.80 per share, up from $1.55 a year earlier. Revenue rose to $22.1-billion, from $20-billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.51 a share on revenue of $21.7-billion. Boeing also raised its full-year 2013 earnings expectations and its shares rose $5.71 or 4.66 per cent to $128.19.

Commodity prices were sharply lower amid speculation that the People’s Bank of China may tighten monetary policy to cool a hot property market. China reported Tuesday that house prices surged in some cities including Guangzhou/Shenzhen where prices jumped 20 per cent year over year, Shanghai jumped 17 per cent year over year while Beijing was up 16 per cent year over year.

The PBoC reported Wednesday that outstanding real estate loans are up 19 per cent from a year ago.

There was also a report that the amount of bad loans written off by China’s largest banks swelled in the first half of the year.

The market was dragged down by a 1.8 per cent slide in the base metals sector as December copper lost six cents to US$3.28 a pound.

The gold sector fell 0.85 per cent as bullion prices also headed downward with the December bullion contract down $11.10 to US$1,331.50 an ounce.

The energy sector was down 0.67 per cent as the December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped $1.88 to US$96.42 a barrel, its lowest level since late June.

European bourses were negative with London’s FTSE 100 index down 0.35 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX declined 0.43 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 fell 0.96 per cent.

Earlier in Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.3 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1.4 per cent, Japan’s Nikkei 225 tumbled two per cent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3 per cent.

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