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Toronto stock market slightly higher; New York sharply lower amid retail misses

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TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Tuesday but New York finished the session sharply lower amid deep disappointment with the earnings and outlooks of retailers.

The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 10.45 points to 14,525.19.

The Canadian dollar dropped 0.36 of a cent to 91.75 cents US.

The Dow Jones industrials tumbled 137.55 points to 16,374.31 as the poor showing in the retail sector reinforced concerns about economic performance and the view that with so many stocks fully valued there isn't much of an impetus for investors to drive stocks higher.

The Nasdaq declined 28.93 points to 4,096.89 and the S&P 500 index was down 12.25 points to 1,872.83.

Office supplies company Staples posted an adjusted first-quarter profit of 18 cents a share, three cents below expectations as restructuring charges continued to hit results and its shares retreated 12.55 per cent to $11.71.

Other retailers pressuring New York included Dick’s Sporting Goods, which skidded 18 per cent after the firm lowered expectations for the second quarter and full year due to weakness in the retailer’s golf and hunting divisions.

And Urban Outfitters fell more almost nine per cent as the firm said profit dropped 20 per cent in the first quarter.

"(Retailers) are improving at the margins but the issue is maybe they aren’t as robust as people were expecting or hoping," said Kevin Headland, director of the portfolio advisory group at Manulife Asset Management.

"Most economic recoveries are usually led by the consumer and this year you haven’t seen that."

Home Depot fared better as quarterly earnings ex-items amounted to 96 cents per share, three cents short of estimates. Revenue rose three per cent to $19.69 billion, but missed estimates of $19.97 billion. It also raised its full-year earnings forecast and its shares gained $1.46 to $77.96.

Meanwhile, Target has fired the president of its troubled Canadian operations, Tony Fisher. Target is trying to fix its operations in Canada, its first expansion outside the U.S., which have been hit with cost overruns and losses. It is also trying to recover from a massive data breach in the U.S. In New York, Target shares were down $1.68 to US$56.61.

Canadian retailers also got caught up in the downdraft with Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A) off $1.24 to C$105.47 and Hudson's Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) 32 cents lower to $17.30.

The quarterly earnings season in Canada has pretty much wound up and now traders are waiting for results from the big Canadian banks.

Royal Bank (TSX:RY) and TD Bank (TSX:TD) kick off the stream of earnings on Thursday and analysts are expecting another solid if unspectacular quarter.

Analysts don't believe the earnings will yield another leg up in stock prices for the big banks, all of which are very close to their 52-week highs.

"Most expectations are for earnings to be normal, benign, a lot of importance will be put on those banks that have divisions in the U.S.," Headland said.

"So banks will come out with regular type of earnings, nothing really surprising to the upside or downside."

On the commodity markets, the energy sector was flat as June crude contract in New York lost early gains and declined 17 cents to US$102.44 a barrel.

The base metals sector rose 0.12 per cent with July copper losing two cents to US$3.14 a pound.

June bullion edged up 80 cents to US$1,294.60 an ounce and the gold sector gained about 0.3 per cent.

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