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At midday: TSX held back by gold stocks, bullion

B Szewczyk/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher late-morning Thursday, held back by gold stocks that fell alongside bullion prices following the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest move and data showing strong U.S. economic growth.

The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 28.73 points to 13,671.95 while the Canadian dollar dipped 0.01 of a cent to 89.45 cents (U.S.).

New York indexes registered solid advances amid data showing U.S. growth coming in at an annualized rate of 3.2 per cent, slightly lower than the 4.1 per cent rate in the July-September period. But for all of 2014, analysts are more optimistic with many forecasting GDP growth of three per cent or better.

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"With the tailwinds that seem to be at the back of the U.S. from energy to manufacturing to housing . . . people have grown more comfortable with the potential for actual acceleration of growth in the U.S. to that three per cent level," said Mark Bayko, vice-president and portfolio manager at RBC Dominion Securities.

The Dow Jones industrials rose 80.92 points to 15,819.71, the Nasdaq climbed 57.11 points to 4,108.54 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 14.11 points to 1,788.31.

The Fed said Wednesday that it was cutting its bond purchases by another $10-billion (U.S.) to $65-billion a month. It was the central bank's second such move to cut back on the stimulus program to keep long-term rates low.

Investors have also been focused on fourth-quarter earnings and outlooks over the past couple of weeks on hopes that a strong corporate showing will help stocks. Last year, the Fed stimulus helped the S&P 500 charge ahead about 30 per cent.

On Thursday, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan shares lost $1.40 to $34.18 (Canadian) as fourth-quarter profit dropped 45 per cent from a year ago to $230-million (U.S.) or 26 cents a share, five cents less than expected. Revenue of $1.54-billion missed expectations of $1.4-billion.

Imperial Oil's profit amounted to $1.24 per share, well above analyst estimates of 89 cents per share under standard accounting. Its shares headed 75 cents lower to $45.04.

In New York, Facebook jumped 16 per cent as the social media company reported results Wednesday that exceeded expectations.

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The industrials sector led advancers on the Toronto market, up one per cent ahead of earnings from Canadian National Railways after the close. It is expected to earn 77 cent per share in adjusted profits in the fourth quarter, up from 71 cents per share in the prior year and its shares were ahead 69 cents to $58.77 (Canadian).

The energy sector was ahead 0.15 per cent while the March crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 86 cents to $98.22 (U.S.) a barrel.

The gold sector fell 2.6 per cent while the February gold bullion contract lost $19.60 to $1,242.60 (U.S.) an ounce. Goldcorp fell 98 cents to $26.66 (Canadian).

Metal prices were lower with the March copper contract down two cents to $3.22 (U.S.) a pound and the base metals sector was down 1.3 per cent. Teck Resources fell 52 cents to $27.22 (Canadian).

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