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Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (REUTERS)
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (REUTERS)

At the open: TSX falls as instability spreads in Iraq Add to ...

The Toronto stock market fell slightly Thursday, as geopolitical instability continues to unfold in Iraq.

The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 6.87 points to 14,885.26. The Canadian dollar gained 0.06 of a cent to 92.08 cents (U.S.).

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrials dropped 32.05 points to 16,811.83, the Nasdaq fell 12.51 points to 4,319.42, while the S&P 500 dipped 3.71 points to 1,940.18.

Can you really afford to buy that house? (The Globe and Mail)

Oil prices are rising as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, an al-Qaeda-linked group, captured two key cities in Iraq and vowed to also take over Baghdad. One of those two cities, Mosul, lies in an area that is a major gateway for Iraqi oil.

The instability in Iraq comes as the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries met in Vienna and agreed to keep their output target unchanged at 30 million barrels a day. Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Department released a report that said oil supplies may be low. The department says supplies fell by 2.6 million barrels in the week ended June 6, more than double the 1.2 million barrels analysts expected.

The July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up $1.59 to $105.99 (U.S.) a barrel. August bullion was up $5.30 to $1,66.50 an ounce, while July copper was down a penny to $3.03 a pound.

On the corporate front, Lululemon Athletica Inc. is reporting a lower first-quarter profit of $19-million as the yoga wear company moves to boost its share price and get past its boardroom controversy. Lululemon said Thursday that its board of directors has approved a stock buy-back program up to $450-million of its common shares to create more shareholder value after seeing its shares sink over the past year. Lululemon’s shares fell nearly 15 per cent, or $6.28, to $38.25 in New York.

The U.S. Commerce Department reports that retail sales rose for a fourth straight month in May, adding to evidence that consumer spending will contribute to stronger economic growth.

Consumer spending rose 0.3 per cent in May, helped by a surge in demand for autos. The result follows a 0.5 per cent climb in April and a 1.5 per cent surge in March, which was the biggest one-month gain in four years.

Retail sales had fallen sharply in January as winter storms cut into shopping and various other types of economic activity. Overall economic growth went into reverse in the first quarter, shrinking at an annual rate of 1 per cent. But the revival in consumer spending has led economists to predict a solid rebound to 3 per cent growth or better in the current April-June quarter.

There were also signs of improvement in Canada as Statistics Canada reported that its new housing price index rose 0.2 per cent in April, following identical increases in both February and March. The agency says the combined metropolitan region of Toronto and Oshawa, Ont., was the top contributor to the increase and had the largest monthly price advance in April, as prices rose 0.7 per cent.

New home prices also rose in Calgary, Hamilton, Ont., Winnipeg and the combined region of Saint John, N.B., Fredericton and Moncton, N.B. Prices slipped in six metropolitan areas in April, including Regina and Vancouver.

Meanwhile, the Teranet-National Bank National Composite House Price Index says Canadian home prices were up in May, rising 0.8 per cent over the previous month. The increase was the fifth smallest for May in the 16 years covered by the index, and while countrywide composite index rose to an all-time high, only three of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed did the same.

Traders are awaiting the release of a semi-annual Financial System Review Thursday by the Bank of Canada, which will be followed by a speech by Governor Stephen Poloz. It’s expected the report will touch on inflation, credit growth and housing prices.

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