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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 3, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 3, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At the open: TSX slightly lower on disappointing U.S. jobs data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was slightly lower Wednesday as investors continued to monitor the standoff between Russia and Ukraine.

They also digested disappointing U.S. private sector employment data two days before the release of the government’s jobs report for February.

The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 13.82 points to 14,276.04.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.16 of a cent to 90.25 cents (U.S.) ahead of a highly anticipated election call by Quebec’s minority, pro-independence PQ government, along with the next interest rate announcement by the Bank of Canada.

U.S. indexes were largely tepid as payroll firm ADP reported the private sector created 139,000 jobs during the month, short of the 160,000 that was expected. Economists looked for Friday’s report to show that overall, about 150,000 jobs were created last month.

The Dow Jones industrials dipped 2.11 points to 16,393.77, the Nasdaq was 2.69 points higher to 4,354.66 while the S&P 500 index added 0.82 of a point to 1,874.73.

It’s been a volatile week on markets, which started the week off with losses after Russian troops invaded Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula over the weekend.

But markets calmed down Tuesday after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases. He also said he hopes that Russia, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, won’t need to use force in eastern Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the European Union announced it is proposing to provide Ukraine an €11-billion aid package in loans and grants over the coming years.

Meanwhile, figures released Wednesday suggest euro zone growth is accelerating, at least in the period before the crisis in Ukraine escalated.

A survey from financial information company Markit suggested that economic growth in the euro zone accelerated to a 32-month high in February, largely on the back of the services sector and strong growth in Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

In earnings news, media company Torstar Corp. had $20.6-million or 26 cents a share of quarterly net income, little changed from $21.1-million a year earlier. Revenue from Torstar’s newspaper and book divisions was $366.5-million, down seven per cent from $395.7-million a year earlier, although the media division’s revenue was up from the third quarter and its shares jumped 46 cents or 9.13 per cent to $5.50.

All TSX sectors were lower, save for a slight rise in the base metals sector with May copper unchanged at $3.22 (U.S.) a pound.

Techs were weak across the board with BlackBerry down 19 cents to $11.27.

The energy sector lost 0.25 per cent while April crude in New York declined 37 cents to $102.96 a barrel.

The gold sector faded 0.2 per cent while April bullion dipped $2 to $1,335.90 an ounce.

Traders are also focusing on the National People’s Congress in China. The country’s leaders pledged Wednesday to promote sustainable growth by opening state-dominated industries to private investment and making banks more market-oriented while keeping this year’s economic expansion at a relatively robust 7.5 per cent.

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