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Miners lead TSX lower as data shows contracting Chinese manufacturing sector

TMX Broadcast Centre is pictured in Toronto on May 16, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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TMX Broadcast Centre is pictured in Toronto on May 16, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed lower Monday as traders balanced surveys that showed Chinese manufacturing shrank in April for afourth month in a row against data that indicated a strengthening American economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 68.12 points to 14,697.03, led by declines in mining stocks after the HSBC index of Chinese factory activity rose by 0.1 point to 48.1 in April on a 100-point scale in which readings below 50 indicate contraction.

The gauge also fell short of its already weak preliminary result, raising another round of questions about the health of China, the world’s second-biggest economy. But analysts noted that the recent mass of data indicates that the global economy is still moving in the right direction.

"It is not a surprise to anybody that the Chinese data is showing the economy growing at slower pace," said Craig Fehr, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

"Broadly, the economy backdrop continues to move in a favourable direction and so any data to the contrary, even if it is data that was expected like the Chinese PMI data, is enough to get investors to perhaps take a step back and exercise a little more caution."

The Canadian dollar was up 0.24 of a cent at 91.31 cents US.

U.S. indexes were largely lacklustre but well off the worst levels of the session as other data showed greater than expected expansion in the American service sector. The Institute for Supply Management's index hit 55.2 in April versus the reading of 54 that economists had expected.

The Dow Jones industrials recovered from a triple-digit tumble to edge up 17.66 points to 16,530.55. The Nasdaq rose 14.16 points to 4,138.06 and the S&P 500 index was 3.52 points higher at 1,884.66.

Andrew Grantham, economist at CIBC World Markets, called the ISM report "further encouraging evidence that the US economy is bouncing back strongly in Q2 following a weather-impacted first quarter."

The TSX base metals led decliners, down 2.33 per cent as the Chinese data helped push July copper down two cents to US$3.05 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) fell 69 cents to $20.86.

The energy sector declined 0.41 per cent as June crude in New York slipped 64 cents to US$99.12 a barrel.

The gold sector drifted about 0.13 per cent lower as worries about deteriorating conditions in Ukraine pushed gold higher for a second day, up $6.40 to US$1,309.30 an ounce.

The telecom sector was up slightly with shares in BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) up nine cents to $48.96 a day before the telecom posts quarterly earnings.

It's a heavy earnings week in Canada, where investors will also take in reports from other major companies, including Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF), pipeline company Enbridge (TSX:ENB), Kinross Gold (TSX:K), Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM), Tim Hortons (TSX:THI), Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ), Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A) and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (TSX:VRX).

On the corporate front, retailer Target announced Monday that chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel is stepping down nearly five months after the retailer disclosed a massive security breach that has hurt its reputation among customers and greatly hurt its business. The company has also struggled with its expansion into Canada, its first foray outside the U.S. and its shares fell 3.45 per cent to US$59.87 in New York.

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