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A trader is reflected in a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the opening bell in New York, January 2, 2014. (CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
A trader is reflected in a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the opening bell in New York, January 2, 2014. (CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)

At the open: TSX slightly lower; investors look to jobs data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was slightly lower Thursday while traders prepared to take in the release of American job creation figures Friday and European leaders considered sanctions against Russia.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 15.11 points to 14,289.06.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.31 of a cent to 90.91 cents (U.S.) amid strong housing data as the total value of building permits issued by municipalities rose 8.5 per cent to $7-billion in January. That followed a 4.8 per cent decrease in December. Markets also looked to Canadian employment data coming out Friday.

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U.S. indexes were higher with the Dow Jones industrials up 58.98 points to 16,419.16, the Nasdaq gained 10.05 points to 4,368.03 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 5.98 points to 1,879.79.

Harsh winter conditions have crimped job creation and expectations for the February non-farm payrolls report are muted. Economists looked for around 145,000 new positions to have been created last month.

There was positive news out ahead of that data. Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, declined to 323,000 last week from 348,000, the lowest level in three months.

In Canada, analysts looked for the economy to have created about 19,000 jobs last month.

Markets are still monitoring developments in Ukraine after getting off to a rocky start at the first of the week after Russia invaded the country’s Crimean peninsula. Russia has major military installations in Crimea and many people are Russian speaking.

European leaders said Thursday that Russia will face sanctions unless it withdraws its troops from Crimea or engages in credible talks to defuse the situation.

On the corporate front, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said its quarterly adjusted net income came in at 52 cents per share, four cents below estimates. Cash flow per share was $1.64, which was 10 cents below the estimate. Its quarterly dividend will rise to 22.5 cents per shares, up two cents and its shares gained 20 cents to $40.90.

The National Energy Board is set to release a decision today on whether it will allow energy delivery giant Enbridge to reverse the flow and increase the capacity of a pipeline that pump soil between southern Ontario and Montreal. Line 9 originally shuttled oil from Sarnia to Montreal, but was reversed in the late 90s in response to market conditions to pump imported crude westward. Enbridge now wants to flow oil back eastwards to service refineries in Ontario and Quebec. Enbridge declined 42 cents to $48.37.

Precision engineered products maker Linamar Corp. posted quarterly net earnings of $68.7-million or $1.06 per share, compared with $30.7-million or 47 cents in the same 2012 period. Revenue increased to $926.1-million from $756.5-million and Linamar increased its quarterly dividend by 25 per cent to 10 cents a share. Its shares ran up $2.11 to $51.41.

The base metals sector led advancers, up 0.4 per cent with May copper one cent higher at $3.21 (U.S.) a pound.

April crude was down 73 cents to $100.72 a barrel and the energy sector was little changed.

The gold sector was also flat while April bullion rose $4.60 to $1,344.90 an ounce.

Techs led decliners, down 0.4 per cent.

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