TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed flat Thursday as commodity prices and stocks rose against a falling U.S. dollar.

But many sectors were held back amid uncertainty about the size of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s plan to inject more stimulus into the U.S. economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 3.16 points to 12,564.09 as investors gave a mixed reception to a variety of earnings reports, while the TSX Venture Exchange gained 18.13 points to 1,926.16.

The Canadian dollar racked up a solid gain, rising 0.69 of a US cent to 97.9 cents US after a strengthening U.S. currency had pushed the loonie lower the previous two sessions.

Gold stocks led advancers on higher bullion prices and a well-received earnings report from Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX).

The December bullion contract on the Nymex was ahead $19.90 at US$1,342.50 an ounce.

Barrick shares rose $1.13 to C$48.07 as the company posted a record third-quarter profit of US$837 million or 84 cents per share, rising from a year-ago loss of $5.35 billion or $6.07 per share when it wound up of its gold hedging program.

Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) was ahead $1.99 at $45.31.

The base metals sector was also positive as the December copper contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange added one cent to US$3.79 a pound. Equinox Minerals (TSX:EQN) gained 13 cents to C$5.58, while Lundin Mining (TSX:LUN) climbed 19 cents to $6.50.

The December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed up 24 cents at US$82.18 a barrel amid mixed demand signs. The TSX energy sector was off 0.28 per cent.

The U.S. Energy Department said commercial crude inventories rose five million barrels — more than the 1.5-million-barrel increase expected by analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. — but gasoline inventories fell 4.4 million barrels.

Nexen Inc. (TSX:NXY), one of Canada’s most international oil producers, reported that net profit in the third quarter soared more than fourfold to $537 million as the company posted gains from the sale of assets. Nexen shares declined 27 cents to $21.35.

Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE), an oil company spun off from Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) almost a year ago, reported third-quarter net earnings of $223 million, or 30 cents per share. That was up sharply from $101 million, or 13 cents per share a year earlier but its stock dropped 52 cents to $28.57.

The Fed's stimulus plan involves buying government bonds in an effort to encourage lending, which is expected to be announced next Wednesday.

Sentiment was shaken earlier this week by reports that the size of the Fed’s bond purchase may amount to a few hundred billion dollars, falling short of the US$500 billion to US$1 trillion previously estimated in the market.

Questions about the size of the stimulus plan, which involves printing more dollars to buy the Treasurys, have also injected volatility into currency markets.

“There is some hesitancy ahead of the actual news,” said Sid Mokhtari, market technician at CIBC World Markets. “We’ve had a very solid rally, 12 per cent off the lows. The market has priced in a lot of positivity basically.”

Financials led decliners with Royal Bank (TSX:RY) down 80 cents at $54.12 and TD Bank (TSX:TD) also off 80 cents at $72.75.

Tech stocks were also weak with shares in electronics manufacturer Celestica Inc. (TSX:CLS) falling 49 cents, or 5.4 per cent, to $8.59 as the company said revenue slipped to US$1.55 billion, a drop of $10 million from a year earlier. The results were at the low end of the company’s guidance and below analyst estimates of US$1.6 billion.

Celestica, which reports in U.S. currency, said its net income was $35.4 million, or 15 cents per share, an improvement from a near break-even loss of $600,000 in the third quarter of 2009.

Resource giant Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (TSX:POT) was also a weight on the TSX even as it reported that its third-quarter profits jumped to US$402.7 million or $1.32 a share, the second-highest earnings for the quarter in the company’s history. But its shares dropped $5.80 to $146.

The fertilizer giant is embroiled in a US$38.6-billion hostile takeover bid by BHP Billiton, the largest such takeover attempt in Canadian history. On Thursday, Saskatchewan politicians passed an emergency motion that calls on Ottawa to reject BHP Billiton’s takeover bid, saying it would not provide a net benefit to the province or to the country.

U.S. markets were also little changed despite strong earnings and positive economic data.

Dow Chemical Co., Motorola Inc. and Eastman Kodak Co. handed in earnings that beat analysts’ expectations.

But strong results at those companies were offset by disappointments at 3M Co. and Colgate-Palmolive Co.. Meanwhile, Apple Inc. shares also stumbled after the company warned its profit margin might narrow next year.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 12.33 points to 11,113.95.

The Nasdaq composite index was up 4.11 points at 2,507.37.

The S&P 500 index headed 1.33 points higher to 1,183.78 amid a surprise drop in first-time claims for unemployment benefits, which bolstered hopes that companies might start ramping up hiring soon. The U.S. Labour Department said claims fell by 21,000 to 434,000 last week. Economists had been expecting a small rise.



The influential pension plan has already sold a large part of its stake in Maple Leaf, and has said it would be open to selling the remaining 25 per cent interest it holds in the company.

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