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An investor stands in front of an electronic board showing stock information filled with green figures indicating falling prices at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province December 26, 2013. (REUTERS)
An investor stands in front of an electronic board showing stock information filled with green figures indicating falling prices at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province December 26, 2013. (REUTERS)

At midday: Stocks lower as China data disappoint Add to ...

Signs of pressure on China’s manufacturing sector weighed heavy on the Toronto stock market on Thursday.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 49.24 points to 13,938.96 near midday with nearly all sectors weaker.

And the Canadian dollar is trading below 90 cents US for the first time since mid-2009. The loonie dropped to 89.96 cents U.S in early trading, down 0.23 of a cent from the previous close. The dollar fell nearly a cent on Wednesday following the Bank of Canada’s latest interest rate announcement.

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A preliminary reading of HSBC’s purchasing managers’ index for China dipped this month to 49.6, the lowest level since July. Numbers below 50 indicate contraction.

In commodities, the March crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 62 cents to US$97.35 a barrel, while the TSX energy sector was flat.

The February gold bullion contract rose $20.60 to US$1,259.20 an ounce. The TSX gold sector rose 3.4 per cent.

On Wall Street, stocks moved sharply lower after several companies reported disappointing results.

The Dow Jones industrials dropped 169.99 points to 16,203.35, the Nasdaq was 40.81 points lower at 4,202.19 and the S&P 500 index was off 17.69 points to 1,827.17.

Several U.S. companies were lower after reporting quarterly results, including KeyCorp, Johnson Controls and Jacobs Engineering.

In economic data, Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.6 per cent in November to $41 billion, the fourth increase in five months.

Separately, it reported that 512,300 people were getting regular employment insurance benefits in November, a number virtually unchanged from October.

Dorel Industries Inc. (TSX:DII.B) is closing an assembly and testing facility in Pennsylvania and moving a research and development unit in Connecticut in a cost-reduction effort at its recreational and leisure business, which makes bicycles. Dorel says about 100 employees will be affected globally. The company’s shares were down 24 cents to $40.97.

Shares in Canadian cheesemaker Saputo Inc. (TSX:SAP) rose 22 cents to $52.91 as it emerged victorious in a bidding war for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter. The Murray Goulburn Co-Operative will sell its shares to Saputo, and expects to receive at least AU$92.8 million cash in return.

McDonald’s Corp. earned $1.4 billion, or $1.40 per share, in the fourth quarter, which is a penny more than Wall Street expected. The world’s biggest hamburger chain also reported that global sales slipped 0.1 per cent at established locations. In the U.S., where it recently revamped its Dollar Menu, the figure fell 1.4 per cent.

McDonald’s shares gained 49 cents to US$95.37.

Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT) says it’s laying off 475 employees worldwide, adding to the 700 positions it has eliminated over the past six months. The decision comes nearly two weeks after the retailer lowered its fourth-quarter profit outlook as it grapples with the fallout of a massive security breach. Shares of the retailer fell 46 cents to $58.52.

Netflix (Nasdaq:NFLX) shares jumped 17 per cent to US$380, the biggest gain in the S&P 500. After the closing bell Wednesday, the streaming video company reported fourth-quarter earnings had climbed six-fold and that it had added 2.3 million subscribers during the period.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX slipped 0.6 per cent to 9,662 and the FTSE 100 index of leading British companies lost 0.3 per cent to 6,804. But France’s CAC 40 was up 0.3 per cent to 4,312.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 0.8 per cent to close at 15,695.89 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 1.5 per cent to 22,733.90. South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.2 per cent to 1,947.59.

The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China retreated 0.5 per cent to 2,042.18. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.1 per cent to 5,263.00.

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