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The close: TSX squeaks out gain Add to ...

North American markets made modest gains Monday as traders held back from any major moves following the record-breaking highs of last week.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 15.89 points to 12,453.92 as Statistics Canada reported that building permits were up for the third consecutive month in March.

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The Canadian dollar was up 0.09 of a cent at 99.32 cents US, after going through small declines earlier in the day.

Market analyst Colin Cieszynski said it’s not unusual for markets to pause during a quiet week after taking in so much major economic news days earlier.

“We had such a huge run and we had so much news last week that often times, the markets will sit back, take a breather afterwards and digest the news already out there,” said Cieszynski, with CMC Markets.

Cieszynski said the markets have held up well despite not much going on.

“They’re flat and slightly positive (which) actually suggests that there’s really good underlying support,” he added.

The only major economic data scheduled for the week are the latest Canadian job numbers which come out Friday. Consensus expectations suggest the economy added about 11,000 jobs in April.

On Monday, Statistics Canada reported municipalities issued $6.5-billion worth of building permits last month, up 8.6 per cent from February.

Most of the gains were from the commercial sector in Ontario and Alberta, with those permits rising 19 per cent to $2.8-billion. Residential permits increased 1.7 per cent to $3.6-billion after an 8.1 per cent decline in February.

Meanwhile, Wall Street saw some gains after being mixed after markets opened.

The Dow Jones industrials was down 5.07 points at 14,968.89 after breaking through 15,000 for the first time on Friday. The S&P stayed above its record of 1,600, which it hit on Friday and closed up 3.08 points to 1,617.50. The Nasdaq jumped ahead 14.34 points to 3,392.97.

In commodities, the June crude contract rose 55 cents to settle at $96.16 a barrel, its highest close since April 2, according to FactSet data. June gold bullion was up $3.80 at $1,468 an ounce and July copper was down nearly half a cent at $3.31 a pound.

The energy sector closed flat, registering a small gain of 0.11 per cent on the TSX, helped by strong gains of 1.82 per cent by TransGlobe Energy Corp. (TSX:TGL) ahead of their earnings on Tuesday.

Shares in Penn West Exploration Ltd. (TSX:PWT) closed up 5.05 per cent at $9.99 after the oil and gas company named two prominent oilpatch veterans as chairman and vice-chairman.

The energy sector was pulled down slightly by the sudden news that the president of Athabasca Oil (TSX:ATH) was leaving the company. The announcement sent the company’s stock down 5.4 per cent to $5.96.

June gold bullion was up $3.80 at $1,468 an ounce as the gold sector grew, aided by Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) who saw their share price go up by 1.54 per cent to $20.46.

July copper was down 0.04 of a cent at US$3.31 a pound. The majority of the sector was positive, with the leaders being Sherritt International (TSX:S), Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) and Rio Alto Mining.

The TSX closed with mixed results, led by industrials which was up 0.71 per cent and metals and mining with a gain of 0.37 per cent. The worst decliner was consumer staples, which dropped 0.78 per cent.

In major corporate news, private equity firm Onex Corp. (TSX:OCX) says it will pay $950-million (U.S.) in cash to acquire business-to-business trade show operator Nielsen Expositions. The purchase, from an affiliate of Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE:NLSN), is expected to close in the second quarter.

Smartphone-maker BlackBerry (TSX:BB) also saw its shares dip 0.19 per cent to $15.74 after an analyst with Canaccord Genuity said sales of the new Z10 phones are “mixed.”

The Z10 touchscreen device sales trends are weakening, he said citing the research firm’s global survey, while the Q10 keyboard has seen “strong initial demand” since its release less than a week ago in Canada and a few days earlier in the U.K.

On Tuesday, all eyes will be on a long list of major companies set to report their earnings, including WestJet (TSX:WJA.A), Kinross Gold Corp (TSX:K) and George Weston Ltd. (TSX:WN).

In the U.S., meat processing giant Tyson Foods was the leading decliner on the S&P 500 after its stock fell more than three per cent to $24.10 on news that its income dropped as chicken feed costs rose and profits fell in its beef business. Tyson’s latest quarterly net income sank 42 per cent.

News that Bank of America and bond-insurance company MBIA had reached a settlement over a long-running dispute helped send both companies’ stocks up. Bank of America closed at $12.88 after falling 5.23 per cent, while shares in MBIA were up nearly 50 per cent to $14.29. The Wall Street Journal reported the bank will pay $1.7-billion to MBIA and also extend a credit line to the troubled company.

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