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At the open: Mining stocks pull TSX lower

A trader studies a graph on a screen at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX) in Moscow May 23, 2006.

ALEXANDER NATRUSKIN/REUTERS

Mining stocks pushed the resource-heavy Toronto stock market slightly lower while commodities fell amid weak Chinese trade data and disappointing Japanese growth figures for the fourth quarter.

The S&P/TSX composite index eased 6.79 points to 14, 292.29, following a 0.6 per cent rise last week.

The weak economic data from overseas coupled with Friday's weak employment report pushed the Canadian dollar down 0.17 of a cent to 90 cents (U.S.) after sliding 0.1 per cent last week.

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New York indexes were also in the red as the Dow Jones industrials lost 43.48 points to 16,409.24, the Nasdaq was down 3.84 points to 4,332.38 while the S&P 500 index was off 2.45 points to 1,875.59.

Data released on the weekend showed China's exports fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February.

China's official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 per cent.

"The focus will likely remain on China in an otherwise quiet week, with January-February activity data due on Thursday," said a commentary from Barclays Research.

"We expect the message to be moderately slower growth, given the soft demand outlook suggested by the recent PMI readings, and lower inflation."

Meanwhile, Japan reported Monday a record current account deficit for January, and lowered its economic growth estimate for the October-December quarter to 0.7 per cent from one per cent.

The base metals sector led TSX losers, down 2.5 per cent as copper prices fell heavily for a second session in the wake of the Chinese data, with the May contract in New York losing another four cents to $3.04 (U.S.) a pound. Prices for the metal tumbled 14 cents Friday after Chinese authorities allowed the country's first corporate bond default, which fuelled speculation as to how many more companies may be in a similar situation.

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The energy sector lost 0.35 per cent while the weak overseas data pushed the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down $1.19 to $101.39 a barrel.

Bullion prices were little changed with the April contract off 20 cents to $1,338 but the gold sector eased 0.45 per cent.

There were minor gains in the consumer discretion and financial sectors.

On the corporate front, satellite hardware developer Com Dev International says quarterly net income dropped to $1.8-million, down nearly 55 per cent from the first quarter of fiscal 2013 as a stronger U.S. dollar weighed on results. Revenue was down one per cent from a year ago at $51.8-million.

Quebecor shares dipped 31 cents to $24.99 a day after Pierre Karl Péladeau, until recently the head of the powerful conglomerate, announced that he's going to run for the Parti Quebecois. Péladeau resigned Sunday morning as vice-chairman of the conglomerate founded by his father. Péladeau remains a shareholder.

European markets were mixed six days before a referendum will be held in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula that will determine whether the territory becomes part of Russia.

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London's FTSE 100 declined 0.22 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX fell 0.47 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 gained 0.36 per cent.

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