National Newswatch

TORONTO — Losses in the energy sector led Canada's main stock index modestly lower on Tuesday as U.S. markets drifted higher for the third day in a row.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 25.41 points to 15,216.47, in a largely broad-based decline.

One notable bright spot on the commodity-heavy TSX was the base metals sector, which was up more than two per cent on the day.

"Base metal stocks are definitely leading the market much stronger," said Colum McKinley, vice-president and portfolio manager of Canadian equities at CIBC Asset Management Inc. "We saw a weaker U.S. dollar so that's helping support copper prices and zinc prices."

South of the border, Wall Street indexes continued turning higher.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 39.18 points to 24,640.45. The S&P 500 index was up 6.94 points to 2,662.94 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 31.55 points to 7,013.51.

Today's market calm follows harrowing levels of market volatility over the last two weeks when the TSX fell more than five per cent and Wall Street indexes entered "correction" territory. Last week the Dow twice fell 1,000 points in a day, sometimes gaining or losing hundreds of points in only a few minutes.

Given the heightened market sentiment, McKinley said investors will be intensely focused on the U.S. Labor Department Wednesday when it issues its monthly report on consumer prices.

"A lot of this volatility in the market place has related to pricing in or changing the expectations in the market for inflation," he said. "We would caution that you should never look at a single point and make a decision on it."

In currency markets, the Canadian dollar closed at an average trading value of 79.37 cents US, up 0.02 of a U.S. cent.

On the commodities front, the March crude contract was down 10 cents to US$59.19 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up four cents to US$2.59 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was up US$4.00 to US$1,330.40 an ounce and the March copper contract was up eight cents to US$3.16 a pound.


David Hodges, The Canadian Press

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