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At the open: North American markets take a break from major selloff

In this Thursday, April 3, 2014, photo, Trader Dudley Devine, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Richard Drew/AP

The Toronto Stock Exchange was relatively flat in early trading as investors eased away from the big sell-off experienced in recent sessions.

The S&P/TSX composite index moved up 9.83 points to 14,280.16 in the morning, while the Canadian dollar moved 0.31 of a cent higher to 91.48 cents (U.S.).

North American markets have been lower for the past three sessions as heavyweight stocks began to pull back on uncertainty over economic growth.

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The International Monetary Fund said shortly before the open that says threats from super-low inflation and outflows of capital from emerging economies threaten worldwide growth.

The 188-country organization says it expects the global economy to grow 3.6 per cent this year and 3.9 per cent in 2015, up from three per cent last year. Those figures are one-tenth of a percentage point below the IMF's previous forecasts in January. However, the fund nudged its 2014 forecast for Canada upward one-tenth of a point to 2.3 per cent this year, while leaving its 2015 estimate for Canada at 2.4 per cent growth.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials slid 1.29 points to 16,244.58, while the Nasdaq was ahead 20.30 points to 4,100.06. The S&P 500 index lifted 1.67 points to 1,846.71.

U.S. technology stocks had suffered a steep decline in the past two sessions on concerns they could be overvalued, sentiment that spread to international markets on Monday but appeared to have subsided on Tuesday with names like Facebook, Netflix and Yahoo all higher.

In commodities, the price of gold climbed to levels it hasn't reached for two weeks with June bullion up $12.40 to $1,310.70 (U.S.) an ounce. The TSX gold sector was one of the biggest gainers with Barrick Gold Corp. rising 28 cents to $20.42 (Canadian) while Goldcorp Inc. lifted 41 cents to $27.57.

May crude rose 67 cents to $101.11 (U.S.) a barrel, while May copper fell 0.5 of a cent to $3.04 a pound.

Investors will be tuned to corporate earnings this week, with aluminum maker Alcoa set to release its financial results after market close. Canadian companies Dollarama Inc. and Cogeco on Wednesday.

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Two reports on Canadian construction activity put a damper on hopes that activity may have picked up last month. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported that March housing starts dropped to a seasonally adjusted rate of 156,823 units, down from 190,639 a year earlier. Meanwhile, Statistics Canada said the value of building permits – which are required before construction begins – dropped 11.6 per cent to $6.1-billion in February.

Traders are also expected to monitor developments in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, pro-Russian separatists seized a provincial administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and proclaimed the region independent – an echo of events prior to Russia's annexation of Crimea. Though Ukrainian authorities say they are driving them out, tensions remain.

European bourses were down with London's FTSE 100 index off 0.9 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX fell 0.9 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 slipped one per cent.

Asian markets were mixed. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 slipped 1.36 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 0.96 per cent while China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 1.92 per cent.

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