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The screens at the TMX Broadcast Centre in Toronto show the closing numbers of the TSX on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto stock market was modestly higher Monday as mining stocks continued to find lift from strong Chinese manufacturing data that came out last week.

Traders also looked to another piece of economic data that kept speculation going over whether the U.S. Federal Reserve thinks the economy is strong enough to start backing off on some of its economic stimulus.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 41.93 points to 12,804.23 after the U.S. Commerce Department reported that durable goods orders fell by a much-greater-than-expected 7.3 per cent in July. Economists had expected a drop of almost four per cent. The showing followed a 3.9 per cent rise in June, thanks in part to strong airplane orders.

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Data released Friday had showed a drop in new home sales, raising questions about the strength of the recovery in the U.S. housing market. That led to speculation that the Fed might stick with its current monetary stimulus or only reduce it very gradually.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.09 of a cent at 95.14 cents US, well off early lows as the greenback weakened somewhat after the durable goods data.

The U.S. dollar has advanced amid growing conviction that the Federal Reserve will start cutting back on its $85-billion (U.S.) of monthly bond purchases, a move that has kept long-term rates low and supported a strong rally on many stock markets this year.

U.S. indexes were slightly higher with the Dow Jones industrials up 8.98 points to 15,019.49, the Nasdaq gaining 10.38 points to 3,668.18 and the S&P 500 index rising 2.52 points to 1,666.02.

On the commodity markets, the base metals sector advanced 0.7 per cent while September copper rose two cents to $3.37 (U.S.) a pound. Thomson Creek Metals Co. (TSX:TCM) gained six cents to $1.52 (Canadian) while Turquoise Hills Resources (TSX:TRQ) was up eight cents at $5.59.

The gold sector was ahead 0.6 per cent as December gold declined $1.40 to $1,394.80 (U.S.) an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) gained 17 cents to $7.23.

The energy sector rose 0.3 per cent as oil prices were slightly higher with the October crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 11 cents at $106.53 (U.S.). Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) climbed 37 cents to $36.43.

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Outside the resource components, financials also lifted the TSX as traders look to the release of earnings from almost all the big Canadian banks this week.

Elsewhere in the sector, TD Bank Group (TSX:TD) says it is continuing talks with Aimia Inc. (TSX:AIM) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (TSX:CM) in connection with a possible acquisition of part of the existing CIBC Aeroplan credit card portfolio.

Onex Corp. (TSX:OCX) and a private equity affiliate are selling their combined 60 per cent stake in TMS International Corp. (NYSE:TMS) for $410-million (U.S.). TMS International Corp., through its subsidiaries including Tube City IMS, is the largest provider of outsourced industrial services to steel mills in North America as well as a substantial international presence. Onex shares gained eight cents to $51.93 (Canadian).

The TSX finished last week with a modest rise as increases in financials and industrials were balanced by further deteriorations in interest-sensitive stocks such as utilities and telecom.

Those sectors have been under selling pressure while bond yields have risen since May when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke first mentioned that the central bank could start to taper its asset purchases.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury has surged about 120 basis points since May to as high as 2.94 per cent last week, although yields have retraced some of that run-up. On Monday, the yield for the 10-year Treasury stood at 2.82 per cent.

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Later in the week, traders will look to the latest growth figures from Canada and the U.S. along with earnings from most of Canada's big banks.

Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) and Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) post results Tuesday while CIBC (TSX:CM), TD Bank (TSX:TD) and Royal Bank (TSXL:RY) report on Thursday.

On Friday, Statistics Canada releases figures for gross domestic product growth in June and the second quarter. Economists expect the data to show GDP contracted 0.5 per cent during the month, in part because of severe flooding in Alberta and a construction sector strike in Quebec.

Stronger growth data is expected from the U.S. The second reading on second-quarter GDP growth comes out on Thursday and economists expect the data to show the economy advanced about two per cent in the second quarter, up from the original reading of 1.7 per cent.

European bourses were mixed with Frankfurt's DAX up 0.04 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 was down 0.18 per cent. London markets were closed for a holiday.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 per cent while Japan's Nikkei 225 retreated by 0.2 per cent. Benchmarks in mainland China, India, Taiwan, New Zealand and Thailand also rose.

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