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The Globe and Mail

At the open: Dow, TSX retreat on China, Europe concerns

An investor looks at the stock price monitor at a private securities company Thursday, March 22, 2012, in Shanghai, China.

STR/AP

North American stocks fell at the start of trading, weighed down by contractions in manufacturing activity in China, France and Germany.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 61 points or 0.5 per cent, to 13,063. The broader S&P 500 fell 8 points or 0.5 per cent, to 1,395. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 51 points or 0.4 per cent, to 12,386.

The declines follow weakness overseas, after a preliminary reading on China's purchasing managers' index for March showed the fifth straight contraction, feeding concerns about the country's economic health. The euro zone's PMI also contracted, reignited concerns that the region is in a recession.

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U.S. initial jobless claims were in line with expectations, falling slightly to 348,000 for the period ended last week – another good sign for the employment situation, but not enough to lift investor sentiment by much.

Commodity producers were among the biggest laggards. Among energy producers, Chevron Corp. fell 1.9 per cent and Suncor Energy Inc. fell 0.6 per cent. Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.4 per cent.

FedEx Corp. fell 3 per cent after the global shipper reported its fiscal third-quarter results. Earnings rose to $1.65 (U.S.) a share, up from 73 cents last year and beating the company's own forecast. However, its forecast for the current quarter might not have impressed analysts.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. rose 0.2 per cent after reporting its quarterly results, with overall revenues jumping 51 per cent over last year. Earnings rose to 51 cents a share from 38 cents last year. However, the yoga-wear company's profit margins fell slightly, to 56.3 per cent.

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