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At midday: TSX flat as energy gets lift from oil; miners drag

A Bay Street sign, a symbol of Canada's economic markets and where main financial institutions are located, is seen in Toronto, May 1, 2013.

Mark Blinch/Reuters

Canada's main stock index was little changed on Wednesday as mining losses, driven by lower metal prices, were offset by gains in the heavily weighted energy and financial sectors.

The market tracked global sentiment, as shares of Apple Inc fell on profit-taking after Tuesday's gains.

Teck Resources Ltd fell 4.8 per cent to $26.89, while First Quantum Minerals Ltd declined 3 per cent to $13.38 as copper prices fell to three-week lows on profit-taking, rising stocks in London Metal Exchange warehouses and nervousness about Chinese demand.

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Copper prices were down 2.0 per cent to $6,538 a tonne around mid-morning.

The overall materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, gave back 1.2 per cent, with losses tempered by a 16.2-per-cent rally in Eldorado Gold's stock after Greece said it would grant permits for the miner's Olympias project this week. Eldorado was last trading at $2.80 a share.

At 11:19 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index nudged up 4.86 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 15,148.27.

Four of the index's 10 key sectors advanced, with oil and gas companies rallying 1.6 per cent, supported by a jump in crude prices after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said a global surplus was beginning to shrink due to strong global demand and an output drop from key producers.

Canadian Natural Resources rose 2.1 per cent to $39.907 a share while Encana Corp gained 3.8 per cent to $12.17 a share.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said a global surplus of crude was starting to shrink, even though U.S. data showed another big increase in crude inventories due to the ongoing effects of Hurricane Harvey.

The influential financials group gained 0.3 per cent, though individual gains were modest.

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Industrials fell 0.6 per cent, with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd off 1.5 per cent to $193.09 a share after a price and ratings cut by National Bank of Canada. The Bank also trimmed its target price for Canadian National Railway, which slipped 0.7 per cent to $98.99 a share.

U.S. stocks were little changed in late morning trading on Wednesday as Apple-led losses in technology stocks were offset by gains in consumer discretionary and energy stocks, which helped the S&P 500 inch up to a record intra-day high.

Apple dropped 1.3 per cent on concerns about the newly launched iPhone X's hefty price tag and its later-than-expected availability date of Nov. 3. The stock was the top drag on all the three major indexes.

Also helping the market was potential progress on tax reform as President Donald Trump prepared to host Democratic and Republican House lawmakers at the White House, seeking to build support on the agenda.

Wall Street is coming off a two-day rally that resulted in the three major indexes finishing at all-time highs on Tuesday and the S&P touching a record intra-day high.

The indexes have stayed near record levels this year despite periodic setbacks caused by turmoil in the White House, the timing of U.S. interest rate hikes, doubts about Trump's ability to push through his pro-business reforms, and lately, tensions over North Korea.

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"The market's slowed the treadmill to a slight pace from the run it was on, nothing really negative," said Matt Lloyd, chief investment strategist at Advisors Asset Management in Monument, Colorado.

"The likely driver today is going to be a little bit of a late-day rally. But not very large."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.22 points, flat on a percent basis, at 22,119.08 and the S&P 500 was down 0.71 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 2,495.77.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 3.82 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,450.46.

Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with a rise in oil prices helping the energy index gain 0.6 percent.

Centene rose about 6 percent after the health insurer said it would buy privately held Fidelis Care for $3.75-billion.

Western Digital was the biggest S&P loser, down 5.3 per cent after Toshiba said it would focus on selling its chips unit to a group led by Bain Capital and SK Hynix .

Equifax dropped 5 per cent as investors brushed off the company's chief executive apology for a breach that may have compromised personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers and a reassurance to "make changes" to avoid further hacks.

Nordstrom gained 6.3 per cent after Reuters reported the Nordstrom family had selected private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners to help take the high-end retailer private.

U.S. gasoline and distillate stocks fell sharply as Harvey shut nearly a quarter of the nation's capacity with major Gulf Coast refineries only starting to come back to life in the last few days.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's weekly data showed a build of 5.9 million barrels of crude, exceeding expectations for a 3.2 million-barrel hike.

Much of that was because of a near 10 million-barrel increase in stocks in the U.S. Gulf region and as crude production rebounded from a brief Harvey interruption.

Oil prices jumped after the report but then pared gains.

U.S. crude futures were up 53 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $48.75 per barrel and Brent crude was up 32 cents to $54.59 a barrel, about where prices were prior to the data.

"A sharp rebound in U.S. oil production compared with last week has limited gains in crude prices as concerns grow that oil output is recovering faster than refining capacity coming online," said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy's Global Gas Analytics in London.

U.S. crude production rebounded to an average of 9.35 million barrels per day from 8.78 million bpd a week earlier, entirely the result of increases in the lower 48 states.

U.S. gasoline stocks slumped 8.4 million barrels, the largest one-week decline since the U.S. Energy Department started recording the data in 1990, while distillate stocks fell 3.2 million barrels.

U.S. gasoline futures dipped after the data, and were down modestly to $1.6546, however, which Andrew Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston said was a "counterintuitive" reaction.

"The market is reacting in anticipation of refineries restarting at the same time expecting a decline in demand due to the after effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma," he said.

The International Energy Agency, in its report, noted that the country's reliance on the Gulf Coast makes it vulnerable to similar events like Harvey, saying "normal operations are too important to fail."

It recommended that the U.S. strengthens its energy security to address events, such as hurricanes, by potentially adding oil products to government-held inventories.

Overall, the IEA said in its monthly report that robust global demand and an output drop from OPEC and other producers should help balance inventories.

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