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North American markets to trade tightly after US jobs numbers

TORONTO - North American stock markets are likely to trade in a tight range on Thursday after the latest U.S. jobs data showed that employers are hiring at a modest clip.

The Canadian dollar was at 100.61 cents US, up 0.07 of a cent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial futures fell 11 points to 13,109 and the broader S&P futures gave back three points at 1,395.20. Nasdaq futures were down 0.5 of a point at 2,707.25.

The U.S. Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, a level consistent with modest gains in hiring. The less volatile four-week average rose by 2,250 to 368,250 in the week that ended Aug. 4.

In commodities, the September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 50 cents to US$93.85 a barrel.

September copper moved down 0.4 of a cent to US$3.418 a pound while December gold rose 30 cents to US$1,616.30 an ounce.

In the retail sector, supermarket operator Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU) says profits were $144.4 million in its fiscal third quarter, above analyst estimates. Revenue for the quarter was up 3.8 per cent to $3.7 billion.

Tim Hortons Inc. (TSX:THI) posted a 13.1 per cent increase in earnings to $108.1 million or 69 cents per share, up from $95.5 million or 58 cents per share in the same year-earlier period. Revenue rose 11.8 per cent to $785.6 million.

Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) net profit rose 21 per cent to $67 million, or $1.05 per basic share. The company's overall revenue increased by $33 million to just under $1.09 billion.

In financials, interest rate conditions have left a mark on some Canadian firms.

Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC) posted a $300 million net loss in the second quarter from challenging equity markets and the interest rate environment, a stark contrast to the $1.2 billion profit the previous quarter and a $490 million profit in the second quarter of 2011. Losses were 18 cents per share, dwonfrom a profit of 26 cents per share a year earlier.

Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF) said second-quarter profits dropped 88 per cent to $51 million, or nine cents per diluted share, from $408 million, or 68 cents per diluted share, in the 2011 period. Revenue grew to $6.05 billion from $5.15 billion, largely due to gains in the fair value of certain financial instruments.

Concern about the global economy has come back into focus this week after a brief upswing in optimism earlier this week.

In China, hopes are that monetary authorities will do more to shore up economic growth in the world's second largest economy.

With inflation in China falling to 1.8 per cent in July from the previous month's 2.2 per cent, expectations are rising that Beijing may ease monetary policy to boost economic growth, which has slowed sharply this year. Separate figures on industrial production and retail sales confirmed the slowdown.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.2 per cent at 6,955 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.1 per cent to 3,441. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat at 5,847.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.1 per cent to close at 8.978.60. During the session, the Nikkei had surpassed the 9,000 level for the first time since July 6.

South Korea's Kospi jumped 2 per cent to 1,940.59. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1 per cent to 20,269.47. On the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 per cent to 2,174.10. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index added 1.5 per cent to 909.69.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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