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At midday: TSX flat on day amid rising geopolitical tension

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Sept. 21.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Canada's main stock index was flat on Friday but on track for a 1.9-per-cent gain on the week as financial stocks pushed higher and a bid for bullion on rising tension between North Korea and the United States boosted gold miners.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.4 per cent, while the financials group also gained 0.2 per cent.

Kirkland Lake Gold rose 1.7 per cent to $16.38 after National Bank of Canada started coverage on the stock with an "outperform" rating. Tahoe Resources gained 0.6 per cent to $6.94 after the miner increased its 2017 gold production outlook and cut its spending plans.

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Gold prices recovered from a four-week low on a bid for safety as North Korea said it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country.

At 11:27 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 17.74 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 15,437.18, with eight of its 10 main groups lower. It closed at its highest level since early June on Thursday.

Bank of Nova Scotia added 0.5 per cent to $79.72 while finance company ECN Capital Corp jumped 6.1 per cent to $4 after closing a deal to acquire Service Finance Holdings and as Credit Suisse raised its view on the stock to "outperform" from "neutral."

Air Canada pushed 2.2 per cent higher to $26.99 as investors bought into its plan to expand routes and cut some prices to compete against low-cost new entrants.

Wall Street was little changed in late morning trading on Friday as losses in financial and healthcare stocks were offset by gains in energy and industrial stocks.

The Dow was weighed down by a 2.5-per-cent drop in the shares of UnitedHealth but was supported by a 0.90 percent rise in Boeing and Chevron.

Apple fell 1.44 per cent, weighing the most on the S&P and the Nasdaq, as the launch of iPhone 8 kicked off in a less lively mood in Asia versus previous debuts.

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Investor sentiment suffered from concerns over simmering tensions between North Korea and the United States, after the two countries exchanged threats.

"It's a little bit of a risk-off move. We seem to be getting a lot of rhetoric, both from the administration and North Korea, and it would be premature to say there is an end," said Marcelle Daher, senior managing director, asset allocation at Manulife Asset Management.

"But generally the market tends to shrug these things off."

The latest spike in tensions prompted demand for gold, which rebounded from a four-week low on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 30.48 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 22,328.75, the S&P 500 was down 2.61 points, or 0.10 per cent, at 2,497.99 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 11.18 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 6,411.51.

The Dow was on track to end the week in gains, but the S&P and the Nasdaq were poised for weekly losses.

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Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led 0.62-per-cent jump in the telecom services index, followed by a 0.56 percent rise in the energy index.

Oil prices steadied, with the brent crude futures hitting its highest since March, as investors waited to see whether major producers would back an extension to output cuts beyond March next year.

The rate-sensitive utilities index was the biggest laggard, on track to clock its worst weekly loss since Nov. 2016.

T-Mobile rose 1.45 per cent after Reuters exclusively reported the company was close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with Sprint. Sprint shares jumped 4.48 per cent.

Versartis slumped more than 85 per cent after its experimental drug for treatment of growth hormone deficiency in children failed in a late-stage study.

United States Steel dipped 5.19 per cent after Cowen downgraded the stock to "underperform" from "market perform."

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