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TSX finds modest lift from U.S. jobs data, Russia/Ukraine tensions weigh

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed with a small gain Friday as job creation data in the U.S. came in well above expectations.

The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 27.16 points at 14,299.08, well off the best levels of the session as China growth concerns sent copper prices and base metal stocks lower.

The Canadian dollar tumbled 0.81 of a cent to 90.17 cents US as other data showed the Canadian economy shed 7,000 jobs last month against a gain of 15,000 that economists had expected.

New York were mainly higher as the American economy created 175,000 jobs last month, well above expectations for 139,000.

The Dow industrials gained 30.83 points to 16,452.72, while the Nasdaq dropped 15.91 points to 4,336.22 and the S&P 500 index added 1.01 points to 1,878.04.

"It’s good the jobs numbers came in better than expected because people have wondered whether the economy is slowing down or whether it was the weather impact," said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investment.

"And I think it’s highlighting that the U.S. economy is still moving ahead."

Some investors were playing it cautious ahead of the weekend and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The week start started off with a sell-off on markets after Russian troops last weekend invaded Ukraine's Crimea region, where it has major military installations and many people are Russian speaking.

Markets quickly regained their footing but there was a new round of nervousness Friday after a warning from the chief executive of Russian state gas company Gazprom.

He said if Ukraine doesn’t pay its $1.89-billion debt for natural gas, “there is a risk of returning to the situation of the beginning of 2009.” At that time, Russia cut off supplies to Europe because of a pricing dispute with Ukraine.

The tech sector led advancers, paced by a 12.15 per cent surge in Constellation Software (TSX:CSU) after the company reported positive quarterly profit and revenue numbers Thursday.

The energy component climbed almost one per cent as the April crude contract in New York moved $1.02 higher to US$102.58 a barrel.

The metals and mining sector led decliners, down 3.55 per cent as May copper tumbled 14 cents to US$3.08 a pound.

Analysts pointed to Chinese authorities allowing the country’s first corporate bond default. Investors in bonds sold in 2012 by Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co., a manufacturer of solar panels, were paid as little as three per cent of the interest that was due Friday.

"Non-performance by Chaori has now fuelled speculation as to how many more companies may be in a similar situation and what negative impact that could have on the economy," said Edward Meir, commodities consultant with INTL FCStone.

The gold sector fell just over one per cent as April bullion retreated $13.60 to US$1,338.20 an ounce.

The TSX ran ahead 0.62 per cent this past week while the Dow industrials rose 0.8 per cent.

The Canadian Press

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