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At the open: Stocks hold steady Add to ...

Most North American stock markets registered small declines at the opening on Thursday, as the head of the European Central Bank warned that the outlook for Europe is growing more uncertain.

But concerns about recession overseas were tempered by better-than-expected results on the U.S. employment front. The number of people in the U.S. claiming unemployment benefits fell by 27,000 to 365,000 in the week ended April 28. On Friday, key monthly jobless data is due.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX dipped 17.71 points, to 12,212.41. Shares of BCE Inc. rose almost 1 per cent, after the country’s biggest communications company reported that first quarter profit grew by 14 per cent.

Manulife Financial shares jumped 4 per cent after the company reported first-quarter profit of $1.2-billion and announced that it had found a new chief financial officer.

Shares of Gildan Activewear Inc. increased almost 4 per cent, after the company posted better-than-expected quarterly numbers and said it would acquire T-shirt maker and distributor Anvil Holdings Inc. for $88-million (U.S.), giving Gildan a stronger presence in the U.S.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2 points to 13270.66 and the broader S&P 500 slipped 0.7 points to 1401.61 points.

Gold was down $9.30 to $1,644.70 an ounce, while the price of a barrel of oil dipped 30 cents to $104.92. The loonie advanced against the greenback by 0.23 cents to 101.6 cents.

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