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Investors find out Wednesday whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will start winding up asset purchases, ending months of speculation and uncertainty. (CP Video)

Investors find out Wednesday whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will start winding up asset purchases, ending months of speculation and uncertainty.

(CP Video)

At the open: TSX little changed, traders eye Fed meeting Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was little changed Tuesday as traders look to a two-day U.S. Federal Reserve meeting and what the central bank may decide to do about cutting back on asset purchases.

The S&P/TSX composite index inched up 1.95 points to 13,186.36. The Canadian dollar was down 0.08 of a cent at 94.38 cents (U.S.) amid a strong manufacturing report. Statistics Canada reported that sales increased by one per cent in October to $50.1-billion. Economists had expected a decline of 0.3 per cent.

U.S. indexes were negative with the Dow Jones industrials 2.96 points lower to 15,881.61, the Nasdaq fell 11.66 points to 4,017.85 and the S&P 500 index was down 4.6 points to 1,781.94.

Traders are playing it cautious ahead of an announcement expected mid-afternoon Wednesday as they weigh the odds of the Fed starting to taper bond purchases, which have been at $85-billion (U.S.) a month. This third episode of quantitative easing by the Fed has underpinned a strong rally in many stock markets while keeping long-term rates low.

Opinion is split with many analysts believing incoming chair Janet Yellen may hold off until March, allowing the Fed to collect more data pointing to a steadily improving economic climate and particularly job creation.

The key piece of economic news Tuesday was U.S. inflation figures for November. Lower gasoline costs kept overall U.S. consumer prices unchanged in November following a 0.1 per cent decline in October.

These low inflation numbers will also play on Fed decision making. Analysts suggest that low inflation only registering a shade over one per cent at an annual rate is the prime reason why the Fed might decide to postpone tapering, as other recent data have been overwhelmingly positive.

Gains on the Toronto market were led by tech stocks as Constellation Software rose $3.23 to $209.92.

The TSX also found minor lift from the financial sector, up 0.2 per cent.

Resource stocks were mainly lower and commodity prices mixed as February bullion fell $11.50 to $1,232.90 (U.S.) an ounce.

The energy sector was down 0.2 per cent while the January crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was six cents higher at $97.54 (U.S.) a barrel.

The base metals sector was slightly lower with March copper unchanged at $3.33 (U.S.) a pound.

In corporate news, Saputo Inc. says it’s willing to pay substantially more for Australia’s Warrnambool Cheese and Butter if it can get as much as 90 per cent of its stock. The company is maintaining its base offer at $9 (Australian) per share but says it will pay as much as $9.60 cash per share if it gets at least 90 per cent of WCB’s stock. That would value the deal at $510-million (Canadian). Saputo shares rose a penny to $47.18.

Hudson’s Bay Co.’s chief operating officer, Donald Watros, will become the retailing company’s president in February. Watros is a former chief administrative officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, which HBC acquired in November for about $2.9-billion. HBC shares were down a dime to $18.20.

European bourses were lower despite a survey that found that German investor confidence jumped to a 7 1/2-year high in December on the back of hopes of an economic upturn in Europe. The ZEW institute’s confidence index, which measures investors’ expectations for the next six months, rose to 62 points from 54.6 in November.

London’s FTSE 100 index dipped 0.31 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was off 0.2 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 fell 0.95 per cent.

Asian stocks were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed up 0.8 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.2 per cent, China’s Shanghai’s Composite fell 0.5 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.3 per cent.

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