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The Globe and Mail

At noon: TSX lower amid weak jobs data, Greek vote

A Greek (R) and an EU flag fly over Greece's Finance Ministry in Athens.


The Toronto stock market was negative Friday as commodity prices fell back amid data showing marginal growth in U.S. employment and uncertainty surrounding the eurozone's debt crisis.

The S&P/TSX composite index tumbled 101.69 points to 12,366.66 while the TSX Venture Exchange moved down 6.44 points to 1,636.

The dollar was down more than a full U.S. cent amid deeply disappointing employment data for Canada, with October recording the biggest loss in jobs since March 2009.

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The loonie fell 1.06 cents to 98.14 cents U.S. after Statistics Canada reported that the economy shed 54,000 jobs overall, most of them in the manufacturing and construction trades.

Economists had expected a moderate increase in employment of 15,000 after September's surprising 61,000 pick-up, although that was somewhat inflated by returning education workers.

The jobless rate came in at 7.3 per cent, 0.2 percentage points higher than September.

New York markets were also lower after the U.S. Labour Department reported that the economy created about 80,000 jobs last month, compared with expectations of 95,000. The jobless rate was nine per cent, down from 9.1 per cent in September.

The U.S. data also revised higher the previous two months. The report showed an additional 104,000 jobs were created during August and September.

"If you take the optimistic view that the job situation isn't worsening, then that just reaffirms that the U.S. economy continues to grow, albeit at a much slower pace than what people would hope," said Phillip Petursson, director of institutional equities at Manulife Global Investment Management.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 149.09 points to 11,895.38, the Nasdaq composite index was down 28.8 points to 2,669.17 while the S&P 500 index declined 16.78 points to 1,244.37.

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Wary investors also kept an eye on the political drama that threatens to hobble efforts by European leaders to contain the debt crisis.

Markets were volatile earlier this week after Greek prime minister George Papandreou stunned markets by calling a referendum on the country's bailout. His plan increased investor fears of a disorderly Greek debt default and the country's possible exit from the eurozone.

"That continues to weigh on markets," added Petursson.

"You know, it's unfortunate that things seemed to be moving ahead at a nice pace last week and then at the start of the week Greece just throws this huge cloud of uncertainty over everything at probably the worst possible moment."

Papandreou backed off on the referendum plans Thursday however uncertainties over Greece remain as his government faces a confidence vote in Parliament later in the day.

Meanwhile, leaders of the world's 20 most powerful economies wrapped up a two-day meeting without agreeing on how to increase the firepower of the International Monetary Fund so that it can help stem the European debt crisis. They did acknowledge its resources should be boosted.

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Possible damage to the eurozone's financial sector and the latest sign of weakness in the Canadian economy pushed the TSX financial sector down 1.42 per cent. Royal Bank gave back 88 cents to $46.10 and Manulife Financial lost 24 cents to $12.87.

Commodity prices weakened following the U.S. jobs report with the December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 68 cents to US$93.39 a barrel. The TSX energy sector lost one per cent as Canadian Natural Resources dropped 66 cents to $37.57 and Suncor Energy dropped 50 cents to $32.70.

The base metals sector stepped back 0.84 per cent while the December copper contract on the Nymex was three cents lower at US$3.56 a pound. First Quantum Minerals declined 44 cents to $21.91 and HudBay Minerals stepped back 20 cents to $10.79.

The gold sector was off 0.97 per cent while bullion prices dipped with the December contract moved down $12.10 to US$1,753 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. was down 65 cents to $51.85.

Centerra Gold Inc. reported a five-fold increase in third-quarter profits on Thursday, citing an increase in sales and higher realized prices for gold for the big improvement. The Toronto-based miner earned US$83.8-million or 35 cents per share while revenue increased to US$278.4-million from $119.9-million in the same period last year. Its shares slipped one cent to $21.01.

The industrials sector was also weak with Bombardier Inc. down eight cents to $4.11.

Air Canada shares were two cents lower at $1.38. The airline beat expectations even though it lost $124-million or 45 cents per share in the summer period. Excluding foreign exchange losses, its adjusted profit was $270-million, or 55 cents per share, seven cents above analyst expectations.

European markets were also lower with London's FTSE 100 index down 0.58 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX declined 2.71 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 fell 1.85 per cent.

Earlier in Asia, stocks ended a four-day losing streak following Thursday's recovery in Europe and the U.S. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.9 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 3.1 per cent and Korea's Kospi gained 3.1 per cent.

Mainland Chinese shares tracked advances in the region, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index adding 0.8 per cent while the Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.6 per cent.

In other earnings news, Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust reported its net profit rose nearly 10 per cent to $11.3-million in the latest quarter as the company benefited from property acquisitions. Its units slipped four cents to $35.40.

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