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Toronto stock market weakens

The Toronto stock market was lower near midday Thursday as weaker gold prices contributed most to the decline.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 52.32 points to 12,300.77, with commodities-heavy sectors contributing most to the decline.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.02 of a cent to 101.57 cents US.

The TSX gold sector fell 2.5 per cent as February bullion dropped $20.10 to US$1,697.80 an ounce.

Crude oil prices for January backed off 10 cents to US$86.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, helping to pull down the energy sector 0.8 per cent.

And copper prices also fell, with the March contract on the Nymex dropping 4.3 cents to US$3.67 a pound.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials slipped 24.27 points to 13,221.18, while the Nasdaq shed 5.04 points to 3,008.77 and the S&P 500 dropped 3.31 points to 1,425.17.

In U.S. economic data, the Commerce Department said Americans spent more on autos, electronics and building supplies in November, pushing retail sales up 0.3 per cent last month. That offset a 0.3 per cent decline in October.

And the U.S. Labour Department said fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, the fourth straight weekly decline. The seasonally adjusted figure of 343,000 was the lowest level in two months and the second-lowest total this year.

The data on declining unemployment applications, which suggests that companies are cutting fewer jobs, comes after the Federal Reserve for the first time ever tied its interest rate policy to unemployment as it aggressively attacks joblessness in the U.S.

The Fed said Wednesday that it will keep its key short-term interest rate near zero at least until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5 per cent and inflation rises to 2.5 per cent.

On the TSX, shares of Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) gained more than 3.5 per cent after the company said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will be launching a pilot program with its smartphones using the new operating system BlackBerry 10, likely in January. Its stock was up 49 cents to $13.63.

In Europe, markets barely reacted to news that European Union finance ministers had agreed to create a banking supervisor and that Greece had finally been approved to get more bailout cash to avoid bankruptcy.

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