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A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

At midday: TSX flat as SNC-Lavalin gains, miners weigh Add to ...

Canada’s main stock index was nearly unchanged on Friday as SNC-Lavalin rose on an acquisition move and Home Capital Group recouped steep losses, while some miners and energy stocks weighed.

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc gained 2.1 per cent to $54.17 after the engineering and construction company said on Thursday it would move ahead with a planned purchase of Britain’s WS Atkins Plc for $3.6-billion.

Another influential gainer was Home Capital Group Inc , which jumped 11.59 per cent to $19.74 after the company announced preliminary earnings figures and released a message from its chairman.

The stock recovered from sharp losses on Thursday, the day after the company acknowledged a securities regulator’s hearing into its disclosure practices.

The broader financials group was flat. Canada’s annual inflation rate cooled more than expected in March, underscoring expectations that any interest rate hike would be a long way off.

Five of the index’s 10 main groups gained.

The energy group retreated 0.3 per cent as crude prices slipped and another global player looked at pulling out of the country’s oil sands, which are among the world’s most expensive plays to develop.

BP Plc is considering the sale of its stakes in three Canadian oil sands projects, sources told Reuters, following similar exits from ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell .

Suncor Energy Inc declined 0.8 per cent to $40.34 and Encana Corp shed 0.4 per cent to $14.42.

Industrials fell 0.1 per cent as Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd pulled back 0.9 percent to $205.43 after its shares rose on Thursday on earnings that topped expectations.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metal miners and fertilizer companies, gained 0.3 per cent, with First Quantum Minerals Ltd down 2.3 per cent at $13.13 and HudBay Minerals Inc off 3.1 per cent at $7.88.

Wall Street slipped in late morning trading on Friday as investors held off from making risky bets ahead of the first round of the closely contested French presidential election.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron is leading most opinion polls for Sunday’s election and is expected to contest a second-round run-off with Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-European Union and anti-immigrant National Front.

“Although Macron has been labeled as favorite to become the next French President, an unexpected Marine Le Pen victory could deal a symbolic blow to the unity of the European Union and ultimately create a tidal wave of risk aversion,” FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga said in a note.

After a two-week losing streak, major indexes are on track to post weekly gains following Thursday’s rally, which was driven by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments that the Trump administration would unveil a tax reform plan very soon.

A steady stream of strong earnings through the week continued to bolster market sentiment.

Of the 95 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Friday morning, about 75 per cent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the 71-per-cent average for the past four quarters.

Overall, profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 11.2 percent in the quarter, the best since 2011.

“The earning season has been tremendous so far and while we’re still relatively early in the season, we’re off to a great start,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 23.31 points, or 0.11 percent, at 20,555.4, the S&P 500 was down 6.41 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 2,349.43 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 11.89 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 5,904.88.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the telecommunications index’s 0.89 percent fall leading the decliners.

Shares of General Electric fell 1.1 per cent to $29.94 after the company reported negative cash flow from its industrial operations in the first quarter.

Schlumberger was down 3.1 per cent at $74.17 after the oilfield services provider warned that margins would remain under pressure as it spends more to bring back idled equipment. The stock was the biggest drag on the S&P.

Mattel fell as much as 11.3 per cent to an 18-month low of $22.35 after the toymaker reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.

Oil prices edged lower, on course for the biggest weekly drop in a month, over doubts that an OPEC-led production cut will restore balance to an oversupplied market.

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