TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed lower on Thursday as attention shifted to key jobs figures that will offer more insight into the direction both the Canadian and U.S. economies.
The S&P/TSX composite index lost 56.90 points to 14,402.21, on weakness across most major sectors.
The Canadian dollar was down 0.03 of a cent at 90.59 cents US.
Traders were focused on the U.S. economy ahead of the U.S. non-farm payrolls report due early Friday after the week was filled with encouraging signs of improvement.
On Thursday, the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index rose to 53.1 in March, a indicator that the service sector is starting to see growth.
The U.S. Labor Department said hiring remains stable at levels seen before the recession, as the number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose by 16,000 last week, to a seasonally adjusted 326,000.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrials ended flat, down 0.45 of a point to 16,572.55 while the Nasdaq dropped 38.72 points to 4,237.74.
The S&P 500 index fell 2.13 points to 1,888.77.
In commodities, June bullion dropped $6.20 to US$1,284.60 an ounce, as investors moved away from the precious metal on signs of further growth in the U.S. economy.
The price of oil closed above US$100 a barrel with the May contract for light crude up 67 cents at US$100.29. May copper dipped 1.9 cents at US$3.027 a pound.
Economists expect that the latest American job creation figures will show that businesses started hiring more workers in March as the bad winter weather subsided. Consensus expectations suggest that around 195,000 new positions were created, which would be a steady improvement from recent months.
In Canada, analysts expect about 25,000 jobs were added last month, which would be an improvement over the decline of 7,000 in February.
In other economic data, Statistics Canada reported that a rebound in exports pushed the country's trade balance with the world to a surplus of $290 million in February from a deficit of $337 million in January.
Toronto's main stock index has risen nearly six per cent since the start of the year and sits near levels that haven't been seen since the summer of 2008. However, questions have persisted over whether the S&P/TSX Composite is headed toward a ceiling.
"I'm one of those guys that's very surprised how (well) the TSX did this first quarter," said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer of Sun Life Global Investment.
Considering the outlook for the economy, and the most recent slate of earnings, the fundamentals of Canada's main stock exchange don't hold up, Adatia said.
"It's just about a matter of time before we have a decent pullback in the TSX," he added.
"As more data comes out on the Canadian market, we're going to realize the economy really is not that strong."
Shares of Hudson's Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) dropped five per cent after it reported the acquisition of U.S. luxury retailer Saks helped sales increase nearly 75 per cent in the fourth quarter, while its profits dropped about 66 per cent, to $29.1 million from $86.8 million a year ago. Its stock was off 96 cents to $17.86.
Goldcorp (TSX:G) has extended the deadline for its hostile takeover bid for Osisko Mining (TSX:OSK), a day after Osisko announced a friendly deal involving Yamana Gold (TSX:YRI), and two of Canada's largest pension funds. The bid was set to expire Friday, but has now been pushed until 5 p.m. ET on April 15.
Overseas, the European Central Bank kept its key policy rate unchanged, saying that despite evidence the economy of the 18-country eurozone is weak and inflation is declining, interest rates will remain at 0.25 per cent.