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At midday: TSX gives back early gains; traders look to consumer data

A trader studies a graph on a screen at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX) in Moscow May 23, 2006.

ALEXANDER NATRUSKIN/REUTERS

The TSX slid back from early gains on Tuesday after mining stocks pushed the market higher amid rising metal prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 6.57 points to 14,285.12.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.1 of a cent to 89.43 cents (U.S.).

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Traders also focused on interest rates as New York's Dow Jones industrials ran up 47.62 points to 16,324.31, the Nasdaq fell 12.50 points to 4,213.89, while the S&P 500 index climbed 1.34 points to 1,858.78.

Charles Plosser, the president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, told CNBC he sees the federal funds rate at three per cent at the end of 2015 and four per cent at the end of 2016.

The current target range for the federal funds rate is between zero and 1/4 per cent.

Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen caught markets unaware last week when she said that the Fed could start increasing rates from near zero about six months after the end of its bond buying program.

But analysts say markets are getting increasingly used to the idea of rates going up.

"After the last Fed meeting, I think it was pretty evident there was a possibility that you may see rates go up quicker than people might have anticipated," said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer of Sun Life Global Investment.

"So I think people are bracing themselves for potentially a rate hike in 2015, maybe a bit earlier than what was initially planned."

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Meanwhile, cold weather continued to limit buying last month as U.S. new-home sales dropped by 3.3 per cent in February.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite also indicated that U.S. home prices ticked down 0.1 per cent in January in a third month of declines, with 12 of 20 tracked cities posting drops. On a seasonally adjusted basis, home prices in January rose 0.8 per cent.

The U.S. Conference Board's gauge of U.S. consumer confidence rose to 82.3 in March from an upwardly revised 78.3 in February. The reading was slightly short of the 78 reading that economists had expected.

Elsewhere on the economic front, business confidence in Germany slipped back from a 2 1/2-year high as tensions over Ukraine cloud companies' outlook for the next six months. The Ifo Institute said its monthly confidence index dropped to 110.7 points this month from 111.3 in February.

Commodities advanced as May copper was up six cents to $3 (U.S.) a pound and the TSX base metals sector improved by 2.7 per cent.

The gold sector climbed 1.25 per cent as April bullion climbed $2.20 to $1,313.40 an ounce.

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May crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange erased early gains to decline 18 cents to $99.42 a barrel and the energy sector edged 0.07 per cent higher.

The tech sector was also supportive, up 0.36 per cent, but shares of BlackBerry lost thirteen cents to $10.37 (Canadian) ahead of earnings on Friday. CBC reported Chinese computer company Lenovo was among potential buyers when the company put itself up for sale last year, but the federal government turned thumbs-down on the plan.

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