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At midday: Dow briefly tops 26,000 mark; TSX slips with resource stocks

A board above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the Dow Jones industrial average at the start of trading on Jan. 16.

Richard Drew/AP

Canada's main stock index edged lower in morning trading on Tuesday as gold miners weighed down heavyweight resource stocks amid a commodity price retreat, even as marijuana producers extended a recent rally.

At 11:24 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 32.10 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 16,336.24. Only four of the index's 10 main groups were in negative territory, but two of those - energy and materials - play an influential role overall.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 1.8 per cent while the energy group retreated 0.8 per cent.

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The most influential weights included Barrick Gold Corp , which fell 4.6 per cent to $18.60, and diversified miner Teck Resources Ltd, down 3.7 per cent at $37.21.

Gold slipped from a four-month high hit on Monday as the U.S. dollar clawed back some lost ground, while copper and nickel hit multi-week lows. Crude prices also pulled back after recent gains.

Goldcorp Inc declined 4.1 per cent to $18.32 after lowering its estimate for all-in sustaining costs.

On the positive side of the ledger, marijuana stocks extend Monday's gains, with Aurora Cannabis up 8.4 per cent to $12.46, Canopy Growth Corp up 2.7 per cent to $37.45 and Aphria Inc also adding 2.7 per cent to $22.30.

BlackBerry Ltd also added to Monday's gains, advancing 1.2 per cent to $17.69, after launching new cybersecurity software which identifies vulnerabilities in programs used in self-driving cars.

Yellow Pages Ltd advanced 1.5 per cent to $8.33 after the company once well known for its thick-print directories said it would fire about 500 employees to cut costs and turn around its digital advertising platform.

SSR Mining Inc jumped 9.3 per cent to $11.17 after the precious metal miner reported fourth-quarter earnings and provided guidance for 2018.

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The Dow eased slightly after hitting the 26,000 mark for the first time on Tuesday, as earnings season got off to a strong start following upbeat results from UnitedHealth and Citigroup.

The largest U.S. health insurer rose 2.6 per cent after reporting results that beat analysts' estimates and raised full-year profit forecast.

Citigroup Inc rose 0.72 per cent after the lender reported a profit that topped expectations as strength in consumer businesses made up for lower revenue from bond and currency trading.

Hopes of strong earnings, supported by a steep cut in corporate taxes, and solid global economic growth have bolstered Wall Street's optimism in the start to 2018.

"There is really nothing in (the market's) way at this point," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

"Investors are liking the fact that companies are talking up earnings, more than they have done in the past. We're going to see better earnings over the next 12 months and you need to buy stocks now to take advantage of that."

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More than three quarters of the 26 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have topped profit estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 145.96 points, or 0.57 per cent, at 25,949.15. If the index closes above 26,000, it would be the fastest 1,000-point rise. It ended above 25,000 on Jan. 4.

Boeing, UnitedHealth and Merck were the biggest boosts to the Dow.

The S&P 500 was up 7.94 points, or 0.28 per cent, at 2,794.18 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 39.01 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 7,300.07.

General Motors rose 2.4 per cent after the company said it expected earnings in 2018 to be largely flat, compared with 2017, but that profits should pick up pace in 2019.

General Electric fell more than 3 per cent after raising the prospect of breaking itself up and announced more than $11 billion in charges from its long-term care insurance portfolio and new U.S. tax laws.

The S&P energy index fell 0.45 per cent as Brent crude oil shed some of its recent gains, falling nearly $1 per barrel.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 1.31 percent rise in the real estate index and a 0.72 percent gain in the healthcare index.

Merck surged more than 7 per cent after early results from a key study showed its blockbuster drug Keytruda and two chemotherapy medicines helped lung cancer patients live longer and stopped the disease from advancing.

Johnson & Johnson rose 1.4 per cent after brokerage Jefferies lifted its price target on the stock.

Amazon rose 1.9 per cent, extending gains from last week when data showed U.S. holiday spending surged to 12-year high, prompting price target hikes by brokerages.

Oil prices eased from three-year highs on Tuesday as traders booked profits from the rally but healthy demand underpinned prices near $70, a level not seen since 2014's market slump.

Prices have been driven up by oil production curbs in OPEC nations and Russia, as well as strong demand thanks to healthy economic growth. Imports to India, the world's third-biggest oil consumer, rose by about 1.8 percent in 2017 to a record 4.37 million barrels per day (bpd) as the country boosted purchases to feed its expanded refining capacity.

Brent futures fell 74 cents, or 1 per cent, to $69.52 a barrel. Earlier in the day, the global benchmark lost more than $1 to a low of $69.16. Traders said Brent was well supported overall at around $70.

Brent hit $70.37 on Monday, matching a high from December 2014, when markets were at the beginning of a three-year decline.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $64.06 a barrel, down 24 cents, or 0.4 percent. WTI hit a December 2014 peak of $64.89 earlier in the session.

Most analysts and market participants said oil is vulnerable to profit taking as hedge funds and money mangers have amassed a record number of bullish bets on U.S. crude.

In addition, trading was thin on Monday due to a holiday in the United States.

Fundamentally, oil has been pushed higher by an effort led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to withhold production since January last year. The cuts are set to last through 2018.

Reacting to the recent three-year high, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the oil market was not yet balanced and that the global deal to cut output should continue as the price rise could be due to cold weather.

The restraint has coincided with healthy oil demand, pushing up crude by almost 15 percent since early December.

"This rally has been driven first by robust fundamentals, with strong demand growth and high OPEC compliance accelerating," U.S. bank Goldman Sachs said in a note.

"We see increasing upside risks to our $62 per barrel Brent and $57.5 per barrel WTI forecast for the coming months."

Other banks, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Societe Generale and Morgan Stanley, have upped their price forecasts.

"Our view is that prices are overheated, and will correct lower," SocGen said in a note. "We believe that the current situation, with strong uplift from fundamentals, non-fundamentals, and geopolitics all at the same time, is not sustainable."

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