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TSX little changed, Ukraine claims its forces destroyed Russian armoured force

TORONTO - A worsening in the Ukraine-Russia crisis put pressure on North American stock markets Friday, although Toronto managed to finish with a minor gain.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 13.06 points to 15,304.24.

Markets initially went deep in the red after NATO said that Russian military vehicles crossed into Ukraine during the night and the Ukrainian president said most of the force had been quickly destroyed by his troops. Russia denied any incursion.

The report persuaded traders to seek safety but the Canadian dollar was higher as jobs data for July blew past expectations.

The loonie rose 0.12 of a cent to 91.84 cents US as Statistics Canada issued a revised report saying the economy added 42,000 positions last month, more than double the 20,000 that had been generally expected by economists. The federal agency disclosed earlier this week that it had discovered an error in its jobs data originally released Aug. 8 showing the economy added a meagre 200 jobs.

The rise in the Canadian currency came as traders looking for a safe haven bought into the U.S. dollar. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasurys fell to 2.338 per cent, down from 2.375 per cent earlier in the morning.

Most U.S. indexes gave up early gains with the Dow Jones industrials finishing down 50.67 points at 16,662.91, the Nasdaq gaining 11.93 points to 4,464.93 and the S&P 500 index slipping 0.12 of a point to 1,955.06.

"Definitely a big impact," said John Stephenson, president and CEO at Stephenson & Company Capital Management

"This clearly casts a bit of a pall over the markets on a Friday and will likely make a negative impact, depending on how things evolve for the beginning of the trading week."

Meanwhile, it wasn't clear if that armed convoy was part of another convoy of almost 300 vehicles containing humanitarian aid that the Russian government dispatched to eastern Ukraine earlier this week. The area has been the scene of heavy fighting as Ukrainian forces fight to retain control of territory from pro-Russian militias.

Russia had earlier agreed to let Ukrainian officials inspect the aid convoy on Friday and agreed to let the Red Cross distribute the aid around the rebel-held city of Luhansk.

Markets had been further reassured after Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to tone down his rhetoric on Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are waging an insurgency in the eastern part of that country. He said Moscow's goal was "to stop bloodshed in Ukraine as soon as possible."

The gold sector was off early lows, down about one per cent as December bullion halved earlier losses. However, gold still lost $9.50 to US$1,306.20 an ounce.

Financials were a weight, down 0.35 per cent.

The energy sector led advancers, up one per cent with September crude in New York ahead $1.77 to US$97.35 a barrel.

The metals and mining group rose 0.63 per cent, while September copper was a cent higher at US$3.10 a pound.

Despite the geopolitical worries, Toronto and New York markets registered gains last week on earnings news and the belief that poor economic data from Europe and China will force central banks to step in with more stimulus. The TSX gained 0.71 per cent while the Dow industrials advanced 0.66 per cent.

On the corporate front, the world’s biggest soda maker is hoping to benefit from the surging popularity of energy drinks. Coca-Cola is buying a 16.7 per cent stake in Monster Beverage for US$2.15 billion. Monster shares surged 30.48 per cent to US$93.49 while Coca Cola gained 1.74 per cent to US$40.88.

The Canadian Press


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