The Toronto stock market was little changed Tuesday morning as investors looked for direction amid a dearth of market-moving corporate and economic news.
The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 2.35 points to 14,299.71 as gains in mining stocks were cancelled out by declining telco and energy companies.
The Canadian dollar declined 0.02 of a cent to 90.06 cents (U.S.).
U.S. indexes were equally lacklustre with the Dow Jones industrials down 32.4 points to 16,386.28, the Nasdaq declined 1.09 points to 4,333.35 while the S&P 500 index lost 2.53 points to 1,874.64.
Mining stocks on the TSX advanced after losing ground Monday amid concerns about Chinese growth as data showed that exports of the world's second biggest economy fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February. The country's official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent.
Copper prices and TSX base metal stocks in particular headed lower as a result of the data with the metal widely viewed as a proxy for the global economy closing at a multi-year low. On Tuesday, the May copper contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was unchanged at $3.04 (U.S.) a pound after shedding six per cent over the last two sessions and the base metals sector rose 0.55 per cent.
The TSX gold sector was up 1.5 per cent as April bullion gained $6.20 to $1,347.70 an ounce.
Oil prices also suffered from the Chinese data and on Tuesday, the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down a further 42 cents to $100.70 a barrel and the energy sector moved down 0.2 per cent.
On the corporate front, printer Transcontinental Inc. says adjusted operating earnings remained stable at $43.5-million for the first quarter as revenues fell five per cent due to weakness in the advertising market. Transcontinental also announced it will acquire Capri Packaging, a Missouri supplier of printed flexible packaging, for $133-million. It says the deal is an "important strategic move" into a new promising growth area. Its shares rose 11 cents to $15.16.
Fortress Paper Ltd. plunged 15.1 per cent to $2.76 as the company posted a quarterly loss of $54.7-million or $3.76 a share as it wrote down the value of property, plant and equipment at a Quebec cellulose mill. Ex-items, Fortress had an adjusted net loss of $21.2-million or $1.46 per share in the quarter, compared with a loss of $11.2-million or 77 cents per share a year earlier. Its revenue dropped to $37.2-million from $58.7-million a year before.
Canadian exporters are also watching developments in Vancouver where a strike by container-truck drivers serving Port of Metro Vancouver terminals is growing. Members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association parked their rigs Monday, joining members of the non-union United Truckers Association who have been on strike since last month. The groups reached a tentative deal with employers last week, but the members voted against the agreement over the weekend.
Overseas, London's FTSE 100 index dipped 0.19 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX rose 0.25 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 was down 0.38 per cent.