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At midday: Markets post modest gains amid cautious trading

Tim Hortons, which plans to add hundreds more stores in North America (500 of them in Canada) and the Middle East, has posted a revenue increase of 4.8 per cent in the latest quarter.

Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

The Toronto stock market registered a minor gain late morning Wednesday with traders cautious amid worries about growing Russian troop strength on the border with Ukraine.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 29.56 points to 15,217.27, supported by the gold sector as nervous investors sent bullion prices higher.

Despite the risk-off sentiment, the Canadian dollar was up 0.23 of a cent to 91.47 cents (U.S.) as Statistics Canada reported that the country's trade surplus shot up to $1.9-billion in June from a revised $576-million in May. Economists had generally expected a $100-million deficit.

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The improvement came as exports rose 1.1 per cent to a record high of $45-billion in June, while imports declined 1.8 per cent.

New York indexes turned higher during the morning as the Dow Jones industrials climbed 38.66 points to 16,468.13, the Nasdaq edged up 12.7 points to 4,365.54 and the S&P 500 index was 4.56 points higher to 1,924.77.

Geopolitical worries were front and centre again Wednesday after news reports of a buildup of Russian troops on the Ukraine border. Stock markets had closed lower Tuesday after Poland's prime minister said he has information indicating that there is a growing threat of a "direct intervention" by Russia in Ukraine.

Geopolitical issues are one reason markets have sold off recently.

Analysts also point to concerns that the Federal Reserve could move to hike interest rates earlier than expected because several data points have come in stronger than expected lately.

The recent market downturn also comes at a time when some say markets, particularly in the U.S., could be set for a retracement after running up practically non-stop for over five years.

"I think they are looking for an excuse (to sell)," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at 3MACS.

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"It's been sort of like a beeline straight up and people are just taking some money off the table."

The TSX gold sector was up almost two per cent as nervous investors pushed December bullion ahead $24.20 to $1,309.50 (U.S.) an ounce.

The energy sector also shed early declines and was up 0.6 per cent while September crude was ahead 65 cents to $98.03 a barrel.

The base metals sector was down 0.3 per cent while September copper dropped four cents to $3.17 a pound.

Earnings news also pushed the market higher as Tim Hortons reported that same-store sales grew 2.6 per cent in Canada and 5.6 per cent in the United States. The restaurant chain also anticipates earnings per share to be near the higher end – or slightly above – its current target range of $3.17 to $3.27 (Canadian) earnings per share for the year and its shares ran ahead 5.9 per cent to $63.61.

"It shows how strong the franchise is in Canada," added Nakamoto.

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"There have been various attempts to take it down a peg or two by Starbucks, McDonalds and so forth but they still seem to be holding their own, if not gaining market share if you look at those numbers."

Molson Coors Brewing Co. beat expectations as quarterly net earnings increased 9.5 per cent to $290.7-million (U.S.) in the second quarter on higher revenues. Revenues grew nearly one per cent to $1.2-billion even though worldwide beer volume fell to 16.6-million hectolitres and its shares ran up 6.3 per cent to $71.46 in New York.

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