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Cars are parked at a port in Dalian, Liaoning province, waiting for export. China will have annual exports of two million cars by 2016, say almost half the respondents of a KPMG auto industry survey. (CHINA DAILY/REUTERS)
Cars are parked at a port in Dalian, Liaoning province, waiting for export. China will have annual exports of two million cars by 2016, say almost half the respondents of a KPMG auto industry survey. (CHINA DAILY/REUTERS)

At the open: TSX flat on disappointing China data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was little changed as disappointing industrial production data added to China growth concerns that have pressured markets all week.

The S&P/TSX composite index added 1.58 points to 14,320.58. The Canadian dollar rose 0.4 of a cent to 90.36 cents (U.S.).

New York indexes advanced amid a stronger than expected retail sales reading for February.

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The Dow Jones industrials gained 58.98 points to 16,399.06 as retail sales rose 0.3 per cent following a 0.6 per cent drop in January, better than the 0.2 per cent climb that economists had expected.

The Nasdaq was ahead 12.57 points to 4,335.9 and the S&P 500 index climbed 5.21 points to 1,873.41.

Chinese industrial production rose by a lower than anticipated 8.6 per cent in the first two months of this year. Retail sales growth also fell short of estimates.

Also, China’s premier Li Keqiang said that his country will keep this year’s economic expansion strong enough to create new jobs but will emphasize market-opening reform and cleaning up smog-choked cities over hitting its official growth target of 7.5 per cent.

The data followed an earlier report showing the world’s second-biggest economy experienced an 18 per cent drop in exports in February.

Copper prices have slid more than eight per cent over the past four sessions while the TSX base metals segment has by far been the worst performer this week, down 8.5 per cent.

The May contract for the metal was down a cent to $2.95 (U.S.) a pound Thursday but the TSX base metals sector revived somewhat, up 0.75 per cent.

It’s not just demand concerns that have weighted on copper.

Chinese authorities gave the go-ahead last week for the country’s first credit default, involving a manufacturer of solar panels. And another solar energy company is also in danger of default.

This is worrisome because copper is used as much for financing transactions as for its industrial applications.

Traders worry that a wave of defaults could result in a massive liquidation of copper on the markets.

Demand questions have also hit oil prices hard this week with the April contract in New York down almost five per cent this week. On Thursday, crude slipped another 14 cents to $97.85 a barrel and the TSX energy sector moved up 0.12 per cent.

Bullion prices also shifted lower after surging $24 Wednesday amid concerns centred around the Ukraine-Russian conflict.

The April contract slipped $2.40 to $1,368.10 an ounce and the gold sector was the leading decliner, down 0.65 per cent.

Meanwhile, media giant Quebecor Inc. had quarterly net income of $62.5-million (Canadian), up from $6.2-million a year earlier. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations came in at $68-million, or 55 cents per share while revenues remained relatively flat at $1.12-billion. Analysts had called for 53 cents of adjusted earnings on $1.15-billion in revenues and its shares dipped 13 cents to $24.81.

Shares in Empire Company Ltd., fell $2.22 to $68 as the parent of supermarket chain Sobeys Inc. reported that quarterly net earnings slumped to $400,000 or nil per diluted share compared with $74.1-million or $1.09 per share in the year-earlier period. Ex-items, earnings were 84 cents per share, below analysts’ estimate of $1.23 per share.

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