Markets post a small gain in mid-day trading

TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market posted a modest advance Tuesday amid mixed commodity prices.

At mid-afternoon, Toronto's S&P/TSX index was up 40.23 points at 13,074.61, adding to a tiny gain on Monday in the final trading week before the Christmas holiday period.

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The loonie was up 0.13 of a U.S. cent at 71.74 cents US.

In commodities, the February contract for benchmark crude oil rose 34 cents to US$36.15 a barrel, while the January contract for natural gas fell three cents to US$1.89 a barrel.

Gold bullion also declined with the February contract down $7.40 at US$1,073.20 an ounce, while copper retreated three cents to US$2.11 a pound.

In New York, the Dow Jones average of 30 stocks enjoyed a strong gain, up 158.47 points at 17,410.09, while the broader S&P 500 index added 15.64 points to 2,036.79 and the Nasdaq gained 23.24 points to 4,992.16.

Markets have been searching for direction as the flow of economic data slows dramatically until after the New Year.

"Today appears to be providing confirmation that unpredictability, inconsistency and choppiness will likely dominate the festive period amid lower volumes," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG.

At this point, many fund managers and traders have closed their books for 2015. The holiday-shortened weeks of Christmas and New Year's also are contributing to lower trading volumes. Most investors expect stocks and bonds to trade in a narrow range until January.

"We need a catalyst and look to the week of the employment report to be that catalyst, but that is still two weeks away," John Briggs, head of American fixed income strategy at RBS, wrote in a note to investors.

In economic news, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the U.S. economy expanded at a two per cent annual rate in the July-September quarter, a bit lower than its previous estimate of 2.1 per cent.

That was significantly below the 3.9 per cent annual GDP growth in the second quarter, reflecting a slowing in the pace of inventory restocking. Economists think growth in the final quarter will amount to around a 2.2 per cent rate, helped by solid consumer spending.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada releases both its gross domestic product and retail sales figures for October.

With files from The Associated Press



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