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Specialist trader Michael Pistillo, Jr. gives out a price for a trade on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Investors seem to be less concerned about slowing monetary stimulus and increasingly confident about the U.S. economy, despite the absence of supporting economic evidence. (BRENDAN McDERMID/REUTERS)
Specialist trader Michael Pistillo, Jr. gives out a price for a trade on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Investors seem to be less concerned about slowing monetary stimulus and increasingly confident about the U.S. economy, despite the absence of supporting economic evidence. (BRENDAN McDERMID/REUTERS)

At the open: TSX flat as data suggest slowing economy Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was little changed Friday as data showed the Canadian and U.S. economies slowing substantially in December.

The S&P/TSX composite index edged up 7.48 points to 14,222.22.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.37 of a cent to 90.17 cents (U.S.) after Statistics Canada reported that fourth quarter economic growth came in at an annualized pace of 2.9 per cent.

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That was better than the 2.5 per cent rise that was expected. Also, the agency raised its initial estimates for the first and second quarters of 2013 and said the overall growth rate for the year was 2.0 per cent – the highest since 2011.

But gross domestic product contracted by 0.5 per cent in December amid severe winter weather conditions late in the month, which was more than the 0.3 per cent drop that economists expected.

“Although there will be a strong tendency to write that off to the weather, that weak handoff and significantly faster inventory accumulation creates downside risk for the first quarter, which we see coming in below two per cent,” said Peter Buchanan, senior economist at CIBC World Markets.

U.S. indexes were slightly higher as the first revision to fourth quarter GDP showed that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.4 per cent, matching expectations but down from the original 3.2 per cent reading as fierce winter weather also hit huge parts of the country during December.

The Dow Jones industrials were 17.77 points higher to 16,290.42, the Nasdaq climbed 13.15 points to 4,332.08 and the S&P 500 index rose 3.59 points to 1,857.88, improving on Thursday’s all-time closing high.

Traders will also take in the latest reading on consumer confidence when the University of Michigan releases its widely-watched index mid-morning.

Meanwhile, there was major acquisition activity as U.S. toymaker Mattel, Inc. made a friendly takeover offer for Canadian toy maker Mega Brands Inc., which has the world’s No. 2 line of construction sets after Lego. The deal values the Montreal-based company at $460-million (U.S.), including debt.

Mattel is offering $17.75 (Canadian) cash per share of Mega Brands, which closed Thursday at $13.07 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On Friday, Mega Brands stock charged ahead 36 per cent to $17.77.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the crisis in Ukraine as fugitive Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych pledged Friday to fight for his country’s future but said he will not ask for military assistance.

IG market analyst Stan Sahmu said that while traders for now are focused on economic indicators, “the Ukraine situation seems to be escalating in the background and could haunt markets in coming weeks.”

Telecoms and financials led TSX advancers.

The energy sector climbed 0.1 per cent while the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange declined 27 cents to $102.13 (U.S.) a barrel.

The base metals sector was slightly lower while May copper was unchanged at $3.20 a pound.

Gold stocks were also lower while April bullion dipped 50 cents to $1,331.30 an ounce.

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