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Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. (SETH WENIG/AP)
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. (SETH WENIG/AP)

The close: Late-day tech selloff pushes TSX slightly lower Add to ...

A late-day sell-off in the tech sector helped push the Toronto stock market slightly lower Wednesday.

The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 6.08 points to 14,673.73 as rising commodity prices lifted miners and traders considered a potential major shift in the Canadian retail landscape. The Canadian dollar rose 0.23 of a cent to 91.89 cents (U.S.) amid general U.S. dollar weakness.

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U.S. retailer Sears Holdings Corp. is considering selling its 51 per cent interest in Sears Canada as the retailer continues with efforts to turn around its business. Sears Holdings’ overall business has been struggling after years of sales declines and it has been closing some unprofitable stores and selling leases in prime locations.

“It’s a sign of how desperate the U.S. parent is and how much trouble they’re in,” said Colin Cieszynski, senior market analyst at CMC Markets.

“Because all the money, all the leases they got out of, the money didn’t stay here, it went south to shore up the U.S. business. The U.S. company is the one that’s in real trouble and what’s left? You’re selling off your most valuable asset.”

Sears Holdings shares gave up early gains to decline $2.53 or 5.85 per cent to $40.70 (U.S.) in New York, while Sears Canada shares ran up 54 cents or 3.43 per cent to $16.30 (Canadian) in Toronto.

Glum earnings news and worries about inflation helped push U.S. indexes lower as the Dow Jones industrials dropped 101.47 points to 16,613.97, the Nasdaq shed 29.54 points to 4,100.63 and the S&P index was off 8.92 points at 1,888.53.

The U.S. Labor Department said that the producer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 per cent from March to April, after a 0.5 per cent increase from February to March. The gains suggest that inflation is picking up from very low levels and raised concerns about when the Federal Reserve could act to hike short-term rates from near zero.

Meanwhile, Deere is reporting a 9.5 per cent decline in second-quarter net income to $980.7-million (U.S.), or $2.65 per share, compared with $1.08-billion, or $2.76 per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue fell 8.9 per cent to $9.95-billion on lower demand for farming equipment. Deere expects a four per cent drop in equipment revenue for fiscal 2014, the same decrease it’s expecting for the current quarter and its shares were down $1.91 to $91.70.

Elsewhere in Canada, Power Financial Corp. says it its first-quarter profits totalled $467-million (Canadian) or 66 cents per share, up from $394-million, or 55 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2013. Operating earnings totalled $440-million, or 62 cents per share, compared with $407-million, or 57 cents per share, year over year. Revenues at the financial services conglomerate that includes Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial were $10.58-billion compared with $8.15-billion a year ago. Power Financial climbed 22 cents to $34.95.

On the commodity markets, the TSX base metals sector rose 0.7 per cent as July copper gained two cents to $3.16 (U.S.) a pound.

The gold sector rose about one per cent as June bullion rose $11.10 to $1,305.90 an ounce.

The energy sector edged 0.16 per cent lower as June crude in New York gained 67 cents to $102.37 a barrel.

Tech stocks led TSX decliners, down 1.7 per cent with BlackBerry (TSX:BB) down 12 cents to $8 (Canadian).

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