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At the open: TSX in the red as earnings disappoint, Astral falls

A file photo of Astral Media Inc.'s president and CEO Ian Greenberg.

SHAUN BEST/Reuters

The Toronto stock market was in the red Friday after four straight days of gains with traders focused on corporate developments and earnings misses.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 30.35 points to 12,435.77 while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 1.73 points to 1,310.61.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.42 of a cent to 101.11 cents U.S. as Statistics Canada reported that the inflation rate came in at an annualized rate of 1.2 per cent during September, which was in line with expectations.

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Shares in radio, TV and billboard company Astral Media fell $7.25 or 15.43 per cent to $39.75 after the federal broadcast regulator unexpectedly blocked a planned sale to telecom BCE Inc. in a deal worth about $3.4-billion.

BCE says it will ask the federal Cabinet to intervene but a spokesman for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says any appeal of the CRTC's decision Thursday would have to go to the Federal Court of Appeal. BCE shares declined 77 cents to $42.86.

The mining sector was off 0.2 per cent as December copper lost six cents to $3.68 (U.S.) a pound. HudBay Minerals eased five cents to $9.55.

The gold sector was little changed while December bullion backed off $5.60 to US$1,739.10 an ounce. Iamgold faded 16 cents to $15.06.

The tech sector was down 0.4 per cent in the wake of the Microsoft report with CGI Group down 34 cents to $25.82.

U.S. markets were also weak with the Dow Jones industrial average down 96.83 points to 13,452.11, the Nasdaq composite index lost 23.41 points to 3,049.46, and the S&P 500 index dropped 8.57 points to 1,448.77.

General Electric shares lost 39 cents to $22.42 (U.S.) as the conglomerate disappointed while income rose 49 per cent in the third quarter to $3.49-billion. Ex-items, GE posted earnings per share of 36 cents, which was in line with expectations. But revenue of $36.35-billion fell short of analyst forecasts.

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Microsoft Corp. also discouraged buyers after the software giant's net income fell 22 per cent in the latest quarter amid sliding PC sales and ongoing economic problems in Europe.

Net income was $4.47-billion, or 53 cents per share, three cents short of estimates. Revenue fell eight per cent to $16-billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $16.5-billion and its shares gave back 76 cents to $28.73.

Fast food chain McDonald's also turned in a disappointing quarterly result, posting earnings per share of $1.43 against the $1.47 that analysts had expected., sending its shares down $2.97 to $89.88.

Commodity prices were mixed with the November crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange ahead 87 cents to $92.97 (U.S.) a barrel and the TSX energy sector slipped 0.17 per cent. Husky Energy lost 31 cents to $27.05.

Traders were also unimpressed with an agreement early Friday by the leaders of the 17 euro countries to push ahead with a single banking supervisory body. The leaders remained vague on key details, such as when the supervisor will be up and running.

Some investors and analysts worry that Europe's politicians may have lost the incentive to fix things quickly now that market turmoil has subsided. The borrowing costs of countries like Spain have eased since the European Central Bank unveiled in September a new bond-buying program.

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European bourses were in the red as London's FTSE 100 index slipped 0.08 per cent while Frankfurt's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were off 0.5 per cent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.2 per cent, South Korea's Kospi lost 0.8 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2 per cent while in mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 per cent.

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