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The Toronto Stock Exchange was little changed early on Dec. 30. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
The Toronto Stock Exchange was little changed early on Dec. 30. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

At the open: TSX little changed amid thin holiday volumes Add to ...

The Toronto stock market started the week slightly lower as gold stocks continued to add to the huge losses racked up this year amid thinner-than-usual volumes as 2013 trading winds down.

The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 2.92 points to 13,585.06.

The Canadian dollar climbed 0.09 of a cent to 93.51 cents US.

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New York markets were weak with the Dow Jones industrials up 12.17 points to 16,490.58, the Nasdaq lost 11.31 points to 4,145.28 while the S&P 500 index dipped 0.34 of a point to 1,841.06.

On the economic front, there is nothing on the Canadian calendar while traders will take in U.S. data on pending home sales for November.

Economists forecast the gauge from the National Association of Realtors will show a rise of one per cent after a 0.6 per cent drop in October. An increase would come after five months of declines.

Later in the week, they will take in the latest readings on house prices, consumer confidence and the American manufacturing sector.

The gold sector led decliners, down 1.35 per cent while February bullion lost $7 to US$1,207 an ounce, adding further damage to a sector already down almost 50 per cent for the year. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) faded 21 cents to C$18.47 while Goldcorp (TSX:G) gave back 32 cents to $22.79.

The base metals sector was flat with March copper on the Nymex unchanged at US$3.38 a pound. HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) shed 10 cents to $8.57.

Techs led advancers with Constellation Software (TSX:CSU) ahead $3.89 to $220.50.

The energy sector was slightly higher while the February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was 34 cents lower to US$99.98 a barrel.

Consumer staples were also supportive.

The TSX is preparing to end 2013 with a respectable gain of about nine per cent. Gains would have been greater if not for deep losses in the mining sectors. Besides the gold sector, the base metals component has retreated 22 per cent.

In sharp contrast, the Dow industrials have plowed ahead 26 per cent.

In corporate news, Montreal-based TransForce Inc. (TSX:TFI) has come out the winner in a two-way bidding war for Vitran Corp. (TSX:VTN), another Canadian trucking and logistics company. Toronto-headquartered Vitran is now supporting TransForce’s offer of US$6.50 per share in cash for the stock it doesn’t already own. The deal is valued at US$136 million, including US$29 million of debt that will be assumed by TransForce. TransForce shares ran ahead 42 cents to $25.33 while Vitran was unchanged at $7.13.

U.S.-based Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is calling off its proposed $2.2 billion buyout by India’s Apollo Tyres, a deal that would have created the world’s seventh largest tire company. Cooper said Monday that financing is no longer available and that it still believes Apollo breached the terms of the agreement.

Meanwhile, European bourses were mainly in the red as London’s FTSE 100 index lost 0.29 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX gave back 0.39 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 was flat.

This was a strong year for many markets, with the DAX up 26 per cent, the CAC index up 18.4 per cent and the FTSE 100 gaining 14 per cent. But none matched Tokyo’s Nikkei 225, which soared 56.7 per cent in 2013 on renewed confidence in the economy after years of feeble growth. Easy liquidity from government spending and monetary policies aimed at fuelling inflation boosted shares, though the potential for continued strong gains remains uncertain.

On Monday, the Nikkei 225 index ended 2013 at its highest level in more than six years.

The Japanese benchmark gained 0.7 per cent to 16,291.31 on Monday, its highest close since late 2007.

For the rest of Asia, 2013 has turned out to be much less exuberant.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, burdened by rising concern over debt and slowing growth in mainland China, has gained just 2.4 per cent this year. On Monday, it edged 0.2 per cent lower while the Shanghai Composite Index fell seven per cent this year and extended that loss Monday, drifting 0.1 per cent lower.

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