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You might think that Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. would have a tough time exceeding investors' expectations for perfection, given the surge in the price of potash and the global focus on agriculture-related stocks. Yet, the stock rose 2 per cent in early trading on Thursday after the potash producer reported first-quarter earnings that rose 181 per cent and topped the forecast of the most enthusiastic analyst.

As well, Celestica Inc. jumped 19 per cent after it swung to a first-quarter profit, beating expectations.

Even so, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 20 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 14,050 in early trading, thanks to a sharp drop in the price of crude oil and gold. Oil fell to $116.15 (U.S.) a barrel, down $2.15. Gold fell to $898.70 an ounce, down $10.30 and below the psychologically important level of $900, marking a substantial retreat from last month when it surged above $1,000 an ounce for the first time ever.

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Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.9 per cent and EnCana Corp. fell 1.6 per cent. Meanwhile, financial stocks were up slightly.

In the United States, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 12,778. General Motors Corp., basking in the surprising profit at Ford Motor Co., rose 1.2 per cent. However, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. fell 1.2 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

The broader S&P 500 fell 1 point, to 1379 - with many of the biggest laggards reacting to news from Wednesday after markets closed. Starbucks Corp., which cut its forecast on Wednesday, fell 10.6 per cent; its stock has essentially been sliced in half over the past 12 months. Inc. fell 3.8 per cent following the release of its quarterly results, and Apple Inc. fell 3.8 per cent.

On the upside, Ford surged 6.1 per cent.

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