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Toronto stock market moves lower, investors look to jobs data, Ukraine crisis

Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press

TMX Group tickers zoom across banners in Toronto on May 10, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TMX Group tickers zoom across banners in Toronto on May 10, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was lower Thursday as traders prepared to take in the release of job creation data Friday. They also absorbed the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine crisis that could see Ukraine break up.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 38.12 points to 14,266.05.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.59 of a cent to 91.19 cents US amid a better than expected read on building permits in January.

U.S. indexes were mainly higher with the Dow Jones industrials up 67.3 points to 16,427.48. The Nasdaq declined 7.34 points to 4,350.64 while the S&P 500 index was ahead 3.55 points to 1,877.36.

Harsh winter conditions have crimped job creation and expectations for the February U.S. non-farm payrolls report are muted. Economists expect the report to show around 145,000 new positions were created last month.

But there was positive news out ahead of that data. Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, declined to the lowest level in three months.

In Canada, analysts expect the report to show the economy created about 15,000 jobs last month, according to Thomson Reuters.

Markets were monitoring developments in Ukraine following a rocky start to the week after Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula where it has major military installations and many people are Russian speaking.

On Thursday, lawmakers in Crimea declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters in 10 days. But analysts point out that markets are trying to take a pragmatic approach to the issue.

"It doesn’t matter economically," said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds Inc.

"The reality is there is no economic pie to fight over. If the Russians rolled into Iran, different story because you’re talking oil, something economic that is of interest in the West. As opposed to wheat and potatoes."

The base metals sector led advancers, up 1.4 per cent with May copper two cents higher at US$3.22 a pound.

April crude was down 65 cents to US$100.80 a barrel and the energy sector was ahead 0.2 per cent.

Canadian Natural Resources' (TSX:CNQ) quarterly adjusted net income came in at 52 cents per share, four cents below estimates. Cash flow per share was $1.64, which was 10 cents below the estimate. Its quarterly dividend will rise to 22.5 cents per shares, up two cents and its shares gained 19 cents to $40.89.

The gold sector was up 0.33 per cent while April bullion rose $11.50 to US$1,351.80 an ounce.

The industrials component lost 0.55 per cent as engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX:SNC) reported a quarterly profit of $92.54 million or 61 cents a share, down from $93.84 million a year ago, missing forecasts by a penny. Revenue fell to $2.12 billion in the fourth quarter, down $300 million from a year earlier and its shares fell $1.82 to $46.55.

The consumer discretionary segment was also weak. But shares in Linamar Corp. (TSX:LNR) ran up 92 cents to $50.22 as the auto parts maker posted quarterly net earnings of $68.7 million or $1.06 per share, compared with $30.7 million or 47 cents in the same 2012 period. Revenue increased to $926.1 million from $756.5 million and Linamar increased its quarterly dividend by 25 per cent to 10 cents a share.