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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 4, 2014. U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday with the S&P 500 closing at a record high. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 4, 2014. U.S. stocks rallied on Tuesday with the S&P 500 closing at a record high. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

The close: TSX slips as S&P 500 hits another record high Add to ...

The Toronto stock market closed lower Thursday as traders prepared to take in the release of job creation data Friday. They also absorbed the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine crisis that could see Ukraine break up.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 32.25 points to 14,271.92.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.38 of a cent to 90.98 cents US amid a better than expected read on building permits in January.

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U.S. indexes were mainly higher, with the Dow Jones industrials up 61.71 points to 16,421.89. The Nasdaq declined 5.84 points to 4,352.13 while the S&P 500 index was ahead 3.22 points to 1,877.03 – its 50th record close in the past 12 months.

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

But there was positive news out ahead of that data. Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, declined to the lowest level in three months.

In Canada, analysts expect the report to show the economy created about 15,000 jobs last month, according to Thomson Reuters.

Markets were monitoring developments in Ukraine following a rocky start to the week after Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula where it has major military installations and many people are Russian speaking.

On Thursday, lawmakers in Crimea declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters in 10 days.

Analysts point out that markets are trying to take a pragmatic approach to the issue.

“It doesn’t matter economically,” said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds Inc.

“The reality is there is no economic pie to fight over,” Stephenson said. “If the Russians rolled into Iran, different story because you’re talking oil, something economic that is of interest in the West, as opposed to wheat and potatoes.”

The industrials component lost 0.55 per cent as engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX:SNC) reported a quarterly profit of $92.54-million or 61 cents a share, down from $93.84-million a year ago, missing forecasts by a penny. Revenue declined to $2.12-billion in the fourth quarter, down $300-million from a year earlier and its shares fell $1.98 to $46.39.

The consumer discretionary segment was also weak. But shares in Linamar Corp. (TSX:LNR) ran up 78 cents to $50.08 as the auto parts maker 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.

The base metals sector led advancers, up 1.72 per cent with May copper two cents higher at US$3.22 a pound.

The gold sector was up about 0.47 per cent while April bullion rose $11.50 to US$1,351.80 an ounce.

April crude ticked 11 cents higher to US$101.56 a barrel and the energy sector was ahead 0.23 per cent.

Canadian Natural Resources’ (TSX:CNQ) 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 11 cents to $40.81.

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