Toronto stock market up slightly after economic worries inflict sharp losses

The Toronto stock market was up slightly Monday with traders not inclined to do much after worries about the pace of economic growth erased all the TSX’s gains since the beginning of the year.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 17.75 points to 12,349.6 at mid-morning following five losing sessions. The index is down from where it ended 2012 at about 12,433.The Canadian dollar was down 0.23 of a cent to 98.13 cents US.U.S. markets were lower as traders looked ahead to quarterly earnings from resource giant Alcoa Inc. (NYSE:AA) after the close. The release of Alcoa’s earnings is regarded as the start to the quarterly earnings season while the aluminum company itself is regarded as an important gauge of economic growth as its products are used in everything from appliances to vehicles to aircraft.Analysts expect Alcoa to post earnings of eight cents per share, two cents less than a year ago, reflecting aluminum prices that are at five month lows. Its shares inched up two cents to $8.26.The Dow Jones industrial average fell 58.59 points to 14,506.66, the Nasdaq composite index was 6.33 points lower at 3,197.53 and the S&P 500 index was down 3.91 points at 1,549.37.The TSX found relief from a 0.5 per cent rise in the telecom sector as BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) rose 33 cents to $46.53.Commodity prices were generally higher after losing ground last week.The gold sector was ahead 0.4 per cent after falling more than seven per cent last week amid lower prices for bullion and gold stocks under pressure because of rising costs. June bullion in New York slipped 20 cents to US$1,575.70 an ounce. Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX:AEM) was up 25 cents to C$38.95.The base metals component was down slightly while May copper gained two cents to US$3.37 a pound after miners in Chile, the world’s biggest producer, said they would announce a nationwide strike on Monday. Economic worries sent copper to eight month lows last week and the mining sector down almost three per cent. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) gave back 23 cents to C$19.06.The energy sector was ahead 0.37 per cent while the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 42 cents to US$93.12 a barrel. Prices fell almost five per cent after data late last week showed that crude in storage in the U.S. was at its highest level since 1990 even though refiners had begun to ramp up gasoline production to get ready for the summer driving season. Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) climbed seven cents to C$30.42.Consumer staples led decliners with food company Saputo (TSX:SAP) down 80 cents to $49.26.The Toronto stock market lost 3.25 per cent last week in the wake of purchasing managers data from China that missed expectations and disappointing reads on the American manufacturing and service sectors.The week was capped off by jobs data from Canada and the U.S. that widely missed expectations, raising doubts about the pace of economic growth and putting fresh pressure on resource stocks.New York markets on the other hand have managed to hold on to the strong gains netted so far this year amid a resurgent housing market and continued stimulus measures from the U.S. Federal Reserve.The Dow ended last week flat but is still up 11 per cent year to date.As well as a run of earnings this week, investors hope to get a better idea from the U.S. Federal Reserve about whether the central bank plans to withdraw some of its monetary stimulus. Minutes to the last policy meeting of the Fed are due to be published Wednesday.European markets advanced amid signs that Europe’s largest economy is stabilizing after a contraction in the fourth quarter. German industrial output rose 0.5 per cent in February from January, when it contracted 0.6 per cent. That reading was higher than the 0.3 per cent gain economists had expected.London’s FTSE 100 index gained 0.35 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.13 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 advanced 0.27 per cent.Earlier in Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shot up 2.8 per cent to close at 13,192.59, its highest close since August 2008.Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.4 per cent to close at lowest level since November 2012 as tensions between the two Koreas remained elevated. North Korea has for weeks been threatening military or other action to punish South Korea and the U.S. for holding joint military drills.On the corporate front, General Electric Co. has agreed to buy the oilfield equipment maker Lufkin Industries Inc. for $3.1 billion, furthering an effort by GE to grow its oil and gas operations. The companies valued the deal at $3.3 billion, which includes $200 million in debt to be assumed by GE. GE shares were off three cents to US$22.89.Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) and a subsidiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles have teamed up to buy the Blackspring Ridge wind generation project near Lethbridge, Alta., on a 50-50 basis from Greengate Power Corp. Financial details of the transactions weren’t disclosed in Monday’s announcement. When completed, the Blackspring project will have 166 turbines, making it the biggest wind power project in Western Canada. Enbridge shares edged up 31 cents to $45.61. read more