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The big blue-chips on Wall Street experienced a "Santa Claus" rally of sorts as their technology cousins in Toronto and New York suffered an afternoon selloff.

All of the major North American indexes were higher at the midday point of the trading session, however, as the closing bell drew nearer, traders shrugged off attractive battered stock prices and started to renew their fear of future profit shortfalls.

Canada's benchmark Toronto Stock Exchange 300-stock composite index finished the day down 42.85 points to 8,599.68 as gold, utilities and some of the big-name techs fell.

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In New York the Dow Jones industrial average gained 168.36 points to 10,487.29 after starting the day in the red. The big retailers, financials and food-and-beverage stocks lifted the high-profile index higher. Earlier in the session it was as low as 10,299.21.

Microsoft Corp., the world's No. 1 software maker, moved up more than 4.5 per cent to $43.44 (U.S.) after announcing it will buy business-software firm Great Plains Software Inc. (GPSI-Nasdaq) for $1.1-billion in stock. Great Plains provides business management tools for small and medium-sized companies and has about 2,000 workers worldwide. Great Plains' stock shot up nearly 32 per cent to $46.56.

After retreating from earlier gains, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Stock Market's composite index managed to claw its way into positive territory during the final moments of trading, closing up 7.34 points to 2,340.12.

The broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 10.12 points to 1,274.86.

Some of the gains on Wall Street were offset by sharp declines by Internet infrastructure firm Lucent Technologies Inc., telecom blue-chip AT&T Corp. and copying giant Xerox Corp. All three stocks joined the profit warning club before the opening bell, saying their upcoming quarterly reports won't meet analysts expectations.

U.S.-based Palm Inc., the maker of popular handheld computing devices, was also hit by investors. The company's stock fell 32.5 per cent to $25.75 after the company reported second-quarter results that beat forecasts but did not deliver the expected sales increase.

The U.S. government further proved that its red-hot economy is indeed slowing. The Commerce Department revised down its estimate of growth in gross domestic product - the measure of total goods and services produced within U.S. borders - to a 2.2 per cent annual rate in the July-September period from 2.4 per cent that it reported a month ago.

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The Canadian Venture Exchange (CDNX), home to Canada's small-caps, lost 11.87 points to 2,692.83.

On Bay Street, five of the TSE's 14 subindexes gained ground, led by the metals-and-minerals sector. The grouping rose 1.8 per cent as Alcan Aluminium Ltd. (AL-TSE) jumped $1.45 to $49.45 (Canadian).

The technology-laden industrial products sector, which was higher for most of the day, shed almost 2 per cent once the closing bell sounded. Nortel Networks Corp. (NT-TSE) finished the day down 55 cents to $47.25. The company had risen to an intraday top of $50.10 after signing a $320-million supply contract with a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom to build a high-speed next generation mobile phone network that will be operational in 2002.

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM-TSE) posted a better-than-expected third-quarter earnings report after Wednesday's closing bell but investors weren't enthused by the company's stock. RIM shares lost $14.55 to $99.90. The company posted an unexpected Q3 profit, earning 2 cents a share, versus the 1-cent loss analysts had been predicting. The unimpressive quarterly report from RIM rival Palm added to RIM's stock woes.

Cognicase Inc., Geac Computer Corp. and MGI Software Inc. and Mitel Corp. made it onto the list of tech advancers while Celestica Inc., Ballard Power Systems Inc., Certicom Corp. and ATI Technologies Inc. declined.

BCE Emergis Inc. (IFM-TSE) fell $1.80 to $45.30 while Descartes Systems Group Inc. (DSG-TSE) sank $3.45 to $31.05. Montreal-based BCE Emergis said it will sell its Internet-based transportation logistics business to Waterloo, Ont.-based Descartes Systems for about $73-million in cash and stock.

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The financial services sector rose 1 per cent as four of Canada's big-five banks headed higher. Only Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM-TSE) couldn't muster enough strength to close in the black. CIBC closed 30 cents cheaper at $45.70 per share.

The oil-and-gas sector sat above the break-even line. After Wednesday's closing bell, Suncor Energy Inc. (SU-TSE) said it will spend almost $1-billion on its operations in 2001, with nearly half going toward the expansion of its Alberta oil sands operations. Suncor was down 10 cents to $35.

The New York price of crude oil rose 21 cents to $25.98 (U.S.) a barrel. Gold rose $1 to $275.70 an ounce.

One Canadian dollar was worth 65.78 cents (U.S.) at the end of trading Thursday, up 0.14 of a cent from Wednesday's closing price.

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