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At the open: Gold stocks lead TSX lower Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was slightly lower, pressured by gold stocks as bullion prices fell sharply below the US$1,300 mark amid further easing of tensions in the Ukraine-Russia standoff.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 17.35 points to 15,273.83 as traders also digested jobs data that blew past expectations.

Does Toronto face a condo ‘supply deluge’? (The Globe and Mail)

The Canadian dollar was up 0.28 of a cent to 92 cents (U.S.) as Statistics Canada reported that the economy added 42,000 positions last month. Economists had generally expected that about 20,000 jobs were created during July.

The federal agency had said earlier this week that it had discovered an error in its jobs data originally released last Friday, showing the economy added a meagre 200 jobs.

U.S. indexes advanced with the Dow Jones industrials ahead 33.26 points to 16,746.84, the Nasdaq gained 20.59 points to 4,473.59 and the S&P 500 index eased five points at 1,960.18.

Russia let Ukrainian officials inspect an aid convoy on Friday and agreed to let the Red Cross distribute the aid around the rebel-held city of Luhansk, which dispelled Ukrainian fears that the aid operation was a ruse to get military help to separatist rebels.

Markets had been further reassured after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin appeared to tone down his rhetoric on Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are waging an insurgency in Ukraine’s east. He said Russia’s goal was “to stop bloodshed in Ukraine as soon as possible.”

The latest developments in Ukraine will help leave stock markets positive for the week. Traders also digested disappointing economic data from China and the euro zone this week, leaving the expectation that central banks will have to step up with further stimulus measures.

The TSX gold sector dropped 1.75 per cent as December bullion fell $19.70 to $1,296 (U.S.) an ounce.

The metals and mining group slipped 0.15 per cent, while September copper was unchanged at $3.09 a pound.

The energy sector was slightly lower with September crude in New York ahead 39 cents to $95.97 a barrel.

On the corporate front, the world’s biggest soda maker is hoping to benefit from the surging popularity of energy drinks. Coca-Cola is buying a 16.7 per cent stake in Monster Beverage for $2.15-billion (U.S.). Monster shares surged 29 per cent to $92.92 while Coca Cola gained 2.25 per cent to $41.09.

Auto parts maker Martinrea International Inc. posted $23.3-million (Canadian) of net income in the second quarter, a 15 per cent decline from a year earlier but an improvement from the previous quarter. The profit for the three months ended June 30 amounted to 27 cents per diluted share under standard accounting and 28 cents per share on an adjusted basis, below estimates on both counts. Its shares gained a cent to $13.81.

In other economic developments, Hong Kong cut its forecast for the economy on Friday after quarterly growth fell to its lowest in nearly two years on a sharp drop in spending by Chinese tourists. Its economy expanded by 1.8 per cent in the April-June quarter over the year before, down from 2.6 per cent in the first quarter, leading the government to cut its annual growth forecast to two to three per cent from three to four per cent.

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