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At the open: TSX climbs amid increased European tensions

A convoy of white trucks leaves Alabino, outside Moscow, on Aug. 12, 2014, for a humanitarian relief mission to eastern Ukraine.


The Toronto stock market was slightly higher as geopolitical uncertainty weighed on sentiment, while traders also considered data showing how the Ukraine-Russia standoff is damaging investor confidence in Europe's biggest economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 22.37 points to 15,284.01 with support coming from gold miners as investors looking for safety pushed bullion prices higher.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.12 of a cent to 91.46 cents (U.S.).

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U.S. indexes were little changed with the Dow Jones industrials off 2.53 points to 16,567.45, the Nasdaq slipped 1.67 points to 4,399.66 and the S&P 500 index was off 0.28 of a point to 1,936.64.

North American markets closed higher Monday amid a perceived easing of tensions in the Ukraine-Russia crisis and data showing inflation in China is tame.

Some analysts said the advance – and gains on Friday – were also the result of the market moving into oversold territory over the previous couple of weeks as traders also fretted about whether the U.S. Federal Reserve would end up raising interest rates earlier than expected next year.

However, the tone was more cautious Tuesday as Ukraine said it would deny a Russian aid mission entry because it has not been certified by the Red Cross and could be a covert military operation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had no information on what the 280 trucks were carrying or where they were going. There are concerns that Russia could use the initiative as a pretext for sending troops into separatist-held territory.

Also, Germany's ZEW indicator of confidence among professional investment analysts sagged to a 20-month low in August. The ZEW institute's index fell to 8.6 from 27.1. Market observers had expected a fall to only 17.0.

Fears about a possible escalation of the crisis in Ukraine have weighed on Germany's business confidence in recent weeks.

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The TSX gold sector led advancers with December bullion up $5.10 to $1,315.60 (U.S.) an ounce.

The base metals component led decliners, down 0.5 per cent while September copper slipped a cent to $3.16 a pound.

The energy sector also weakened, down 0.45 per cent as the September crude contract in New York declined 93 cents to $97.15 a barrel.

In earnings news, construction company Aecon Group Inc. posted a net loss of $12.2-million (Canadian) or 23 cents in its second quarter, attributed mainly to lower revenue and margins in its mining construction segment. Analysts expected a net profit of 15 cents a share. Revenue came in at $589.6-million, down from $697.6-million and missing estimates of $641.52-million. Its shares fell 65 cents to $15.96.

Paper company Cascades Inc. reported a second-quarter loss of $83-million, impacted by such factors as its exit from the kraft paper business and a European mill closure. That amounts to 88 cents per share, compared with a net profit of $2-million, or three cents per share, in the same quarter in 2013 and its shares gained five cents to $6.10.

As well as monitoring the situation in Ukraine, investors are keeping one eye on Iraq.

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Iraq's incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared more isolated Tuesday as he pressed his battle to remain in power while Iraqi politicians and the international community rallied behind a Shiite premier-designate who could be a more unifying figure.

The power struggle in Baghdad comes as Iraq is battling militants from the al-Qaeda breakaway group in the north and the west. The onslaught by the Islamic State has captured large chunks of Iraqi territory since June.

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