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TSX closes flat at end of positive week amid decline in U.S. house sales

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TORONTO - The Toronto stock market gave up a modest gain to close little changed Friday while investors looked to the release of a disappointing read on U.S. home sales last month.

The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 4.65 points to 14,205.72 at the end of a positive week for the Toronto market.

The Canadian dollar continued to pile up losses for a third day, down 0.28 of a cent to 89.82 cents US as Statistics Canada said that December retail sales tumbled 1.8 per cent from November. Economists had expected a drop of just 0.4 per cent.

The agency also reported that the Canadian consumer price index was up 1.5 per cent in January compared with a year earlier.

U.S. indexes were lacklustre as the National Association of Realtors said existing house sales dropped 5.1 per cent in January following a 0.8 per cent rise in December.

It was the worst pace in 18 months as cold weather, limited supplies of homes on the market and higher buying costs held back purchases. The drop took the annualized rate of sales down to 4.62 million but analysts said one month of negative data doesn't change the trend.

"The concern that started to surface last year with the move in interest rates was whether we would see a big impact on mortgage financing — and we did see a temporary slowdown on the housing front," said Mark Bayko, vice-president and portfolio manager at RBC Wealth Management.

"That was cause for some alarm but, thus far, people remain fairly comfortable with the improving trend that has been in place now for quite some time."

The Dow Jones industrials fell 29.93 points to 16,103.3, while the Nasdaq lost 4.13 points to 4,263.41 and the S&P 500 index dropped 3.53 points to 1,836.25.

Techs were the biggest TSX drag as BlackBerry (TSX:PBB) shed 24 cents or 2.3 per cent to $10.17.

The gold sector moved down about 0.4 per cent even as April gold gained $6.70 to US$1,323.60 an ounce.

Eldorado Gold Corp. (TSX:ELD) shares were 16 cents lower to $7.96 as the miner posted a US$687.6-million quarterly net loss amid lower values for its assets and reduced gold prices and output. Revenue was $231.7 million, down from US$350 million in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The energy sector rose 0.23 per cent even as the April crude contract in New York declined 55 cents to US$102.20 a barrel.

March copper was up a cent at US$3.29 a pound and the base metals sector rose 0.19 per cent.

Thompson Creek Metals Co. Inc. (TSX:TCM) posted an adjusted net loss of US$28.5 million or 17 cents per share, missing forecasts for a loss of three cents a share. Revenue was also below expectations. But its shares rose 26 cents or 8.81 per cent to $3.21 as it also said that it will suspend operations at its molybdenum mine in Idaho by the end of this year due to persistent low prices.

In the U.S., Groupon plunged 21.88 per cent after the online deals company said it expected to post a loss this quarter. The company also issued a weak outlook for the year.

The TSX ended the week with a solid gain of 1.07 per cent, reflecting general satisfaction with fourth-quarter earnings reports and positive U.S. manufacturing data on Thursday. The Dow faltered somewhat this week, down 0.3 per cent but strong earnings reports have left the index up 2.57 per cent for the month while the TSX has jumped 3.73 per cent so far in February.

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