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TSX Edges Down Amid Mixed Cues - Canadian Commentary

Despite a recovery in commodities, Canadian stocks were lingering in the red Thursday morning amid renewed worries over the euro zone economy after a disappointing Spanish government bond auction. Also, traders were cautious ahead of long weekend.

Meanwhile, Canada's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in March as companies added full-time jobs. However, economic data from both sides of the Atlantic came in mixed. U.K.'s manufacturing output unexpectedly declined, while German industrial output fell by more than expected. From the US, the Labor Department said claims for unemployment fell to the lowest levels in almost four years.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index shed 32.63 points or 0.27 percent to 12,146.03, after shedding nearly 350 points or 3 percent in the past two sessions.

The price of crude oil was recovering from the past two-session losses Thursday morning, supported by concerns over Iranian oil supplies and China data. China's service sector expanded notably in March, though at a slower pace compared to the previous month, a survey by Markit Economics revealed. Firms remained fairly upbeat about their business prospects with confidence jumping to a 11-month high. The headline seasonally adjusted HSBC/Markit Business Activity Index, an indicator of activity in the service sector, scored 53.3 in March compared to 53.9 in February. Crude for May delivery added $1.36 to $102.83 a barrel.

In the oil patch, ARC Resources (ARX.TO) and Trilogy Energy (TET.TO) lost over 2 percent each. On the other hand, Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO) and Nexen Inc. (NXY.TO) gained around 2 percent each

Broadband network solutions provider Sandvine Corp. (SVC.TO) dived nearly 6 percent after reporting a wider first quarter net loss of C$6.50 million or C$0.47 per share compared to C$2.70 million or C$0.02 per share a year ago. Separately, the company announced that it has received over $7 million in Network Policy Control expansion orders from a tier-1 North American cable operator.

Diamond miner and retailer Harry Winston Diamond Corp (HW.TO) shed 3 percent despite reporting higher fourth-quarter net profit of $16.60 million or $0.19 per share, compared to $13.69 million or $0.16 per share in last year. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of $0.18 per share in the quarter.

After falling heavily in the previous session, the price of gold moved higher Thursday morning despite a steady US dollar. Gold for June gained $18.40 to $1,632.50 an ounce.

In the gold space, Royal Gold (RGL.TO), Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) and Goldcorp. (G.TO) moved down over 2 percent each.

Lake Shore Gold (LSG.TO) announced the resumption of operations at its Timmins West Mine in Ontario, where production was halted for a week following the death of a worker in an accident. The stock was up 1 percent.

Among financial plays, National Bank (NA.TO), TD Bank (TD.TO) and CIBC (CM.TO) slipped nearly 1 percent each.

Meanwhile, base-metals stocks were firm, with First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) adding nearly 10 percent.

In economic news, Statistics Canada said the economy created 82,000 jobs in March helping the unemployment rate ease by 0.2 percentage points to 7.2 percent. Economists expected only 10,000 new positions to be created, leaving the unemployment rate at 7.4 percent.

Separately, the agency said total value of building permits rose 7.5 percent to $6.5 billion in February, sharply reversing an 11.4 percent decline in January. The advance in February was the result of an increase in the non-residential sector, which offset the decrease in the residential sector.

From the U.S., the Labor Department said new claims for unemployment came in at a seasonally adjusted level of 357,000, a decline of 6,000 from the previous week's revised average of 363,000.
While the previous figure was revised up somewhat from the 359,000 initially reported, this week's numbers come in lower than the 360,000 predicted by most economists.

From the euro zone, Germany's industrial production declined more than expected in February, data from the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology showed. Industrial output dropped 1.3 percent in February from a month ago, offsetting January's 1.2 percent growth. Economists had expected a 0.5 percent decrease.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England left its key interest rate unchanged at 0.50 percent, while maintaining its asset purchase program at GBP 325 billion.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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