TSX trading flat as crude prices continue slump

TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market was slightly lower Wednesday amid falling commodity prices while the promise of a measured approach to interest rate hikes from the head of the U.S.

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Federal Reserve helped strengthen markets in New York.

At mid-afternoon, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 20.63 points at 12,262.02 after piling up big losses over the previous two sessions.

The Canadian dollar was off 0.23 of a U.S. cent at 71.82 cents US.

In commodities, the March contract for benchmark crude oil was down for a fifth consecutive session, off 54 cents at US$27.40 a barrel.

Elsewhere in commodities, March natural gas shed six cents to US$2.04 per mmBtu, while April gold fell $5.30 to US$1,193.30 a troy ounce and March copper fell two cents to US$2.02 a pound.

In New York, markets ended a three-day slump with the Dow Jones industrial average rising a modest 21.13 points to 16,035.51, while the broader S&P 500 advanced more strongly, adding 15.57 points to 1,867.78. The Nasdaq composite shot up 64.99 points to 4,333.75.

Observers credited the strength in New York to remarks by U.S. Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen in her semi-annual report to Congress in advance of two days of testimony.

Yellen reiterated the Fed's confidence that the U.S. economy was on track for stronger growth and a rebound in inflation, but added that the U.S. central bank would likely move more slowly to raise interest rates if the economy disappoints.

In Europe, Germany's DAX advanced 1.6 per cent, France's CAC 40 rose 1.6 per cent and Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.7 per cent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 2.3 per cent and is down about 11 per cent in the past month. Markets were closed in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea for Lunar New Year holidays. Hong Kong and Korea reopen on Thursday and China and Taiwan resume trading Monday.



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