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The Globe and Mail

At midday: TSX neutral amid strong U.S. consumer confidence data

In this Friday, July 12, 2013, file photo, customers shop at a Wal-Mart, in Bristol, Pa.

Matt Rourke/AP

The Toronto stock market was slightly lower late-morning Tuesday amid strong U.S. housing and consumer confidence figures.

The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 10.41 points to 15,095.22. The Canadian dollar was down 0.12 of a cent to 93.11 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were positive with the Dow Jones industrials up 24.56 points to 16,961.82, the Nasdaq up 29.14 points to 4,397.81 and the S&P 500 index adding 4.71 points to 1,967.32.

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Traders digested data showing that U.S. home prices rose in April from a year ago at the slowest pace in 13 months, reflecting a recent drop-off in sales. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 10.8 per cent in April from 12 months earlier, down from 12.4 per cent in the previous month and the smallest since March 2013.

But the U.S. Commerce Department reported that new home sales surged 18.6 per cent in May to an annual rate of 504,000, the fastest pace in six years. That was much higher than the 440,000 reading that economists had expected.

Also, the New York-based Conference Board's June reading on consumer confidence ran ahead to 85.2, much higher than the expected reading of 83.

The financials sector led TSX advancers, up 0.25 per cent.

The TSX gold sector lost early gains to move down 0.85 per cent. Gold prices and stocks have steadily advanced this month because of geopolitical worries centred around Iraq and tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The August bullion contract in New York rose $1.50 to $1,319.90 (U.S.) an ounce.

The energy sector was 0.11 per cent lower as oil prices edged higher with the August crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 11 cents to $106.28 a barrel.

Oil prices had risen steadily over the past couple of weeks amid a rising insurgency in Iraq. But prices fell on Monday as fears receded that it would greatly affect its oil production and exports. OPEC Secretary General Abdullah Al-Badry said Tuesday that Iraq is "still producing as normal," with 95 per cent of its capacity in the country's south being unaffected by the violence.

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The base metals sector was down 0.17 per cent while copper was unchanged at $3.15 a pound following a three-cent rise Monday sparked by strong Chinese data.

On the corporate front, Bell Media, the radio and television division of BCE Inc., is laying off as many as 120 jobs or about five per cent of its Toronto workforce due to "financial pressure" in its advertising and subscription TV services. BCE shares dipped a penny to $48.52 (Canadian).

AGF Management Ltd. shares were down 39 cents to $12.39 as the mutual fund operator and wealth management company reported it had $14.5-million or 17 cents per share of net income in its fiscal second quarter, contrasting with a year-earlier loss of $10.4-million or 12 cents per share. Revenue from continuing operations was down from a year earlier, dropping to $119.1-million from $126.9-million.

Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries Inc. says it will adopt a single platform design for heavy-duty buses by the second half of 2015 in order to improve efficiency. It expects to deal with the impact on its people through a combination of workforce redeployments, retirements and departures through attrition. Its shares added two cents to $12.31.

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