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A woman totes shopping bags in Frankfurt, Germany. Consumer confidence, measured by market research group GfK, surged to the highest level in seven years during the first quarter, beating the estimates of the most optimistic analysts polled by Reuters. (MICHAEL PROBST/AP)
A woman totes shopping bags in Frankfurt, Germany. Consumer confidence, measured by market research group GfK, surged to the highest level in seven years during the first quarter, beating the estimates of the most optimistic analysts polled by Reuters. (MICHAEL PROBST/AP)

At the open: TSX declines amid weak U.S. spending data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was lower Thursday amid a disappointing read on American consumer spending and mixed earnings news.

The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 17.56 points to 14,957.09.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.09 of a cent to 93.36 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were also negative with the Dow Jones industrials down 71.38 points to 16,796.13, the Nasdaq was 20.58 points lower to 4,359.18 and the S&P 500 index fell 10.43 points to 1,949.1.

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The U.S. Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.2 per cent last month after no gain in April, missing expectations for a 0.4 per cent rise.

“More importantly, in real-terms, consumption fell for the second straight month, down 0.1 per cent in May,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Jennifer Lee, who also observed that consumers still account for the “lion’s share” of the U.S. economy.

“Going forward, the second quarter will still see rebound but something in the order of around a three per cent annualized pace, down from our call of 3.8 per cent. This is very disappointing,” Lee said.

U.S. incomes rose a solid 0.4 per cent in May, which met expectations, after a 0.3 per cent April gain.

Meanwhile, an inflation gauge that’s closely monitored by the U.S. Federal Reserve has risen 1.8 per cent over the past 12 months, the fastest rise since late 2012 but still below the Fed’s two per cent target.

Data released Wednesday showed that the final revision to American economic growth in the first quarter showed that U.S. gross domestic product shrank 2.9 per cent, larger than the two per cent contraction economists had expected. However, the decline was due in large part to severe winter weather.

On the corporate front, grocer Sobey’s plans to close about 50 of its underperforming stories, most of them in Western Canada where parent company Empire Inc. purchased the Canada Safeway supermarket chain. Empire made the announcement as it also posted fourth-quarter adjusted net earnings from continuing operations of $131.3-million, or $1.42 per diluted share, beating estimates of $1.29. That compared with $95.7-million, or $1.40 per diluted share, in the same quarter of last year. Sales were $5.94-billion, up $1.68-billion year-over-year, narrowly missing expectations of $5.95-billion. It also upped its dividend 3.8 per cent to 27 cents a share and its shares slipped 15 cents to $66.95.

Also, media giant Shaw Communications reported quarterly earnings per share of 47 cents, two cents less than estimates. Revenue in the quarter was $1.34-billion, up one per cent year-over-year and its shares gained six cents to $26.41.

In other corporate news, Alcoa is buying British jet engine component company Firth Rixson for $2.35-billion (U.S.) in cash and $500-million stock. Alcoa is increasing its focus on finished aluminum products for aerospace, autos and other industries.

The gold sector was the major decliner, down 0.8 per cent while August bullion faded $6 to $1,316.60 an ounce.

The energy sector was down 0.2 per cent as oil prices also declined as fears diminished somewhat over supply disruptions from Iraq with the August contract down 38 cents to $106.12 a barrel.

July copper was unchanged at $3.16 a pound and the base metals component lost 0.15 per cent.

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