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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, June 2, 2014. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, June 2, 2014. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

At the open: TSX gains as traders consider U.S. economic health Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher Friday morning, capping a losing week as traders took profits amid a new round of concerns about the U.S. economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 17.93 points to 15,048.67.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.06 of a cent to 93.58 cents (U.S.).

New York indexes were mainly lower as U.S. traders looked to consumer sentiment data coming out later in the morning.

What boat sales tell us about Canada's economy (The Globe and Mail)

The Dow Jones industrials shed 19.07 points to 16,827.06, the Nasdaq was up 1.23 points to 4,380.27, while the S&P 500 index slipped 1.71 points to 1,955.51.

Traders looked for the University of Michigan’s widely watched consumer sentiment index to rise to 81.9 from a flash estimate of 81.2.

That could help reassure investors rattled during this week by a much greater than expected U.S. gross domestic product contraction of 2.9 per cent, almost a full point higher than expected. Markets had initially shrugged off the data on expectations the American economy would jump ahead in the second quarter as the deterioration was largely blamed on severe winter weather. But economic concerns surfaced Thursday as data showed a worse than expected reading on consumer spending and consumption.

The report also sparked concerns about whether the economy can take the strain of higher interest rates, particularly after St. Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard said markets don’t realize how close the central bank is to reaching its targets of low unemployment and stable prices. That prompted speculation the Fed could hike as soon as the first quarter of 2015.

Traders are looking ahead to key economic data next week for reassurance that the economy is indeed on track for a strong second quarter, including the June reading on the manufacturing sector from the Institute for Supply Management and the release Thursday of the U.S. government’s employment report for June.

It is also hoped that the flood of corporate earnings reports covering the April-June period will provide reassurance that the economy is improving.

TSX advancers were led by a 0.55 per cent rise in the consumer staples sector as the parent of grocer Sobeys, Empire Co. gained $1.66 to $69.35. The stock had also edged higher Thursday after Empire said it was closing 50 underperforming Sobeys stores, while quarterly earnings beat expectations.

Commodity prices were mixed with September copper ahead one cent at $3.18 (U.S.) a pound and the base metals group was up 0.3 per cent.

The energy component rose 0.08 per cent as August crude gained 11 cents to $105.95 a barrel. Crude prices have declined this week in the wake of the weaker than expected U.S. consumer data and expectations that the sectarian fighting in Iraq won`t spread to the oil-producing south.

The gold sector also edged up 0.08 per cent, while August bullion rose $2.80 to $1,319.80 an ounce.

In corporate news, energy producer Encana has reached an agreement with Alberta-based Jupiter Resources to sell its Bighorn properties in the province for about $1.8-billion. Encana has sold a number of its assets in recent months and is focusing on a half-dozen core growth areas in specific regions. Encana shares slipped a dime to $25.48 (Canadian).

First Quantum Minerals shares were off nine cents to $22.42 as the miner temporarily halted construction activity at its Cobre Panama project due to an illegal work stoppage by some members of its construction workforce. It said the dispute centres around the work roster.


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