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Bank of Montreal CEO Bill Downe recently said that investments in U.S. capital markets are paying off, particularly because of the hires made in recent years. (Adrian Wyld/CP)
Bank of Montreal CEO Bill Downe recently said that investments in U.S. capital markets are paying off, particularly because of the hires made in recent years. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

At the open: TSX, U.S. indexes lower on China concerns Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was lower Tuesday as China concerns depressed oil prices and energy stocks while two major banks posted solid earnings reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 31.89 points to 14,195.19.

Bank of Montreal had $1.06-billion or $1.58 of net income in the first quarter, up two per cent from a year earlier and five cents higher than forecast. Adjusted net income was $1.08-billion or $1.61 a share, which was also ahead of estimates.

National Bank’s quarterly net income totalled $405-million or $1.15 per diluted share, up from $373-million or $1.05 per share in the same 2013 period. Ex-items, earnings were $384-million or $1.09 per share, well above expectations of $1.05 per share.

Bank of Montreal was up 26 cents to $72.83 while National Bank inched up 11 cents to $43.72.

The Canadian dollar slipped 0.07 of a cent to 90.29 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were lower amid data showing that U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as severe winter weather, tight supply and higher costs combined to slow sales.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 per cent from November to December. For all of 2013, however, prices rose by a healthy 13.4 per cent, the largest gain in eight years.

The Dow Jones industrials lost 24.21 points to 16,182.93, the Nasdaq dipped 0.13 of a point to 4,292.84, while the S&P 500 index was down 2.48 points to 1,845.13.

Traders also looked to the release later in the morning of the latest reading on American consumer confidence. Economists believe the Conference Board’s index will show a decline for February following two months of gains because of adverse weather conditions.

In other earnings news, Home Depot’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income dipped one per cent to $1.01-billion, or 73 cents per share with results hampered by bad winter weather. Earnings topped expectations of 71 cents a share and its shares gained almost two per cent to $79.35 (U.S.).

Commodity prices declined with markets rattled by a deceleration in the rise of Chinese housing prices in January and weakness in China’s currency.

Last week’s decline in the tightly controlled yuan prompted suggestions Beijing might be trying to support exporters and help offset weakening domestic demand. That came after an HSBC survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity in February tumbled to a seven-month low.

The energy sector drifted 0.85 of a point lower as the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.03 to $101.79 a barrel.

The base metals component was off 0.15 per cent while March copper fell for a second day, down two cents to $3.25 a pound.

April gold gave back $1 to $1,337 an ounce and the gold sector faded about 0.25 per cent.

The tech sector was up 1.1 per cent as BlackBerry continued to benefit from a report from Bloomberg that automaker Ford will base its next-generation Sync system on the smartphone maker’s QNX and no longer use Microsoft’s Windows. Its shares ran up 62 cents or 5.7 per cent to $11.49 on top of a gain of almost seven per cent on Monday.

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