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TSX closes little changed amid geopolitical worries, lower German confidence

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Tuesday 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 gained 12.59 points to 15,274.23, with most of the lift coming from rising gold stocks.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.02 of a cent to 91.56 cents US, off the worst levels of the day, after Statistics Canada announced that it would release a revised employment report for July on Friday.

A statement on the agency's website said an error had been detected and that it would launch a review of the data verification process.

Statistics Canada reported last Friday that the economy created only 200 jobs last month, a far cry from the approximately 15,000 positions that economists had forecast.

U.S. indexes also declined with the Dow Jones industrials off 9.44 points at 16,560.54, the Nasdaq down 12.08 points at 4,389.25 and the S&P 500 index off 3.17 points at 1,933.75.

After two days of gains on markets, the tone was more cautious Tuesday as Ukraine said it would deny entry to a Russian aid mission because it has not been certified by the Red Cross and could be a covert military operation.

Ukraine insists any aid must be delivered by the International Red Cross.

There are concerns that Russia could use the initiative as a pretext for sending troops into separatist-held territory.

"For the Ukraine issue, that’s a concern that we have and I think it’s a concern that will be long standing," said Ben Jang, portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is extremely popular and some days the markets are anticipating a speedy resolution and some days they aren’t but Russia is willing to sacrifice . . . for long-term gain."

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.

The TSX gold sector led advancers, up about 1.77 per cent with December bullion up 10 cents to US$1,310.60 an ounce.

The energy sector led decliners, down 0.63 per cent as the September crude contract in New York declined 71 cents to US$97.37 a barrel after the International Energy Agency cut its forecast for global oil demand.

The base metals component was down 0.3 per cent as September copper shed early gains to close two cents lower at US$3.15 a pound.

In earnings news, construction company Aecon Group Inc. (TSX:ARE) posted a net loss of $12.2 million 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. Its shares fell 37 cents to $16.24.

And shares in home improvement retailer Rona (TSX:RON) jumped 39 cents to $12.77 as it reported quarterly net income from continuing operations of $42 million, or 35 cents per share, compared with a loss of $38.7 million, or 32 cents per share, in the same quarter in 2013. Adjusted earnings were $42 million, or 35 cents per share, compared with $33.6 million, or 28 cents per share, year-over-year. Consolidated revenues from continuing operations were down 4.4 per cent at $1.193 billion.

The Canadian Press

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