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Sliding commodities depress TSX; U.S. markets lower amid positive jobs data

Wed, 01/05/2011 - 5:45am
Malcolm Morrison-Associated Press

Lower commodity stocks helped push the Toronto stock market lower Wednesday as oil prices fell back despite data showing a larger than forecast drop in U.S. oil consumption.

The S&P/TSX composite index lost 77.1 points to 13,325.21 as gold prices also further deteriorated as more positive econonmic data persuaded investors to trim their bullion holdings.

The TSX Venture Exchange fell 21.83 points to 2,253.28.

The Canadian dollar shed early losses, rising 0.13 of a cent to 100.28 cents US after payroll company ADP forecast that the American economy created 297,000 jobs during December.

The data was released two days before U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for December and reinforced hopes that the U.S. economy created at least 150,000 jobs during December.

The TSX ended 2010 trading with a 14 per cent gain but has found it difficult to gain traction in the first two trading days of the year amid sliding commodity prices.

Oil fell for a second day with the February contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 66 cents to US$88.72 a barrel.

The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories fell 7.5 million barrels last week while analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had forecast a drop of 1.6 million barrels.

Crude supplies have fallen for five weeks, but are still above levels from the previous year. The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reports its weekly supply data later Wednesday.

The TSX energy sector moved back 0.71 per cent with Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) down 34 cents to $37.70 and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) lost 66 cents to $43.48.

Metals also headed lower as the March copper contract on the Nymex shed three cents to US$4.34 a pound, taking the base metals sector down 1.23 per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) gave back 78 cents to $62.06 while Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) eased 12 cents to $4.86.

The gold sector dropped 1.88 per cent as the February bullion contract in New York lost $8.80 to US$1,370 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) fell $1.19 to $50.40 while Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded 81 cents to $43.68.

All TSX sectors were in the red.

Later in the morning, investors will take in the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index, which is expected to show a slightly faster pace of expansion during last month. Economists expect the index to come in at 55.3 following a 55 reading for November.

Investors were encouraged earlier in the week after the ISM's manufacturing index for December came in at a six-month high of 57, which raised hopes for economic growth in the neighborhood of four per cent.

Retailers, hotels and other service companies employ about 80 per cent of the U.S. work force. But their growth has lagged behind manufacturers since the recession ended last June.

New York's Dow Jones industrials lost 21.57 points to 11,669.61.

The Nasdaq composite index was down 4.95 points to 2,676.3 while the S&P 500 index was down 2.9 points 1,267.3.

In corporate news, insurer Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC) said it made "significant progress" during the fourth quarter in its goal of tamping down the risk in its portfolios by reducing exposure to equity markets thanks to healthier stock markets. Its shares declined 21 cents to $17.06.

Qualcomm Inc., the developer of chips and other technology for cellphones, says it has agreed to buy chip maker Atheros Communications Inc. for US$3.2 billion in cash. Qualcomm will pay US$45 per share for Atheros, a premium of 22 per cent over Atheros' closing share price Monday, the last trading day before The New York Times reported the potential deal.

Canadian nuclear medicine specialist Nordion Inc. (TSX:NDN) has extended a contract with one of its primary customers to supply Molybdenum-99, used to make isotopes for nuclear medicine procedures. Nordion, formerly part of MDS Inc. before it was split up, said its contract with Lantheus Medical Imaging Inc. will now last until Dec. 31, 2013, while the original was in place until July 31, 2011. Nordion shares were off 17 cents to $11.28.

Overseas, China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.5 per cent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.4 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average ended down 0.2 per cent, South Korea's Kospi fell 0.1 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.6 per cent.

London's FTSE 100 index dropped 0.12 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX 30 declined 1.03 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 was 0.99 per cent lower.

Elsewhere, there was relief that debt-laden Portugal managed to raise 500 million euros via the auction of six-month Treasury bills and that demand for the offering was relatively high at over 1.3 billion euros. However, Portugal had to pay a whopping interest rate of just under 3.7 per cent to get the necessary backing, way up on the two per cent it had to pay in September.

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