North American markets mixed

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher after two days of losses amid worries about the knock-on effects from the U.S. economy going over the so-called fiscal cliff.The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 21.79 points to 12,212.84 while the TSX Venture Exchange added 3.01 points to 1,301.69.The fiscal cliff label refers to a string of tax increases and steep spending cuts to the tune of US$600 billion set to go into effect Jan. 1 unless Democrats and Republicans can come together and arrange a deficit-cutting compromise. Failure to do so would likely tip the U.S. back into recession and drag down other economies with it.Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney says the fiscal cliff is the most imminent threat facing the Canadian economy.The Canadian dollar was off the lows of the morning, up 0.03 of a cent at 99.99 cents US. The loonie has lost almost nine tenths of a cent over the past two sessions as worries about the fiscal cliff pushed investors to the perceived safe haven of U.S. Treasuries.The U.S. dollar also depressed commodity prices. A stronger greenback makes it more expensive for holders of other currencies to buy oil and metals which are dollar-denominated.New York indexes have registered their worst declines of the year over the last two sessions as investors worry that taxes on capital gains and dividends could rise substantially after the first of the year. But indexes came off the lows of the morning after a strong reading on the mood of the American consumer.The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey index came in at 84.9 in November, the highest reading since July 2007, from a final October reading of 82.6, reflecting lower gasoline prices and the improvement in housing and labour market data. Economists had expected a decline to 81.5 because of concerns over the fiscal cliff and the effects of superstorm Sandy.“At some point, the negative impact from further decline in equity prices will trump the positive from lower gasoline prices and weigh on consumer moods,” said Capital Economics economist Amna Asaf. “We suspect that the fiscal cliff negotiations will also begin to have more of an impact now they are getting 24/7 coverage in the media.”The Dow Jones industrials were up 15.61 points to 12,826.93. The Nasdaq rose 17.46 points to 2,913.05 and the S&P 500 index gained 5.4 points to 1,382.91.U.S. President Barack Obama was set to make some remarks on dealing with the fiscal cliff at 1 p.m. EST.Positive economic data from China seemed to have little effect on sentiment. Auto sales, consumer spending and factory output in the world’s second-largest economy all improved in October.Also in October, inflation eased further, giving Beijing more room to cut interest rates or launch new stimulus measures to speed a recovery with less danger of igniting politically dangerous price rises.Financials led TSX advancers late in the morning as Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) rose 45 cents to $53.96 while Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) climbed 39 cents to $12.21.The TSX telecom sector was also positive as Telus Corp. (TSX:T) reported its net profit rose eight per cent to $351 million or $1.08 per share. Overall revenue was up 5.8 per cent to nearly $2.8 billion, up about $200 million from just over $2.6 billion in the third quarter of 2011. Overall wireless revenue was up seven per cent from a year ago, rising by $104 million to $1.5 billion and its shares were up $1.32 to $64.85.The energy sector was up 0.1 per cent as the December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange moved into positive territory, up 38 cents to US$85.47 a barrel. Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) gained 27 cents to C$11.11 while Cenovus Energy (TSX:CNQ) advanced 41 cents to $33.55.Copper, viewed as an economic barometer as the metal is used in so many applications, dropped four cents to US$3.43 a pound but the base metals sector moved ahead 0.35 per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) gained 47 cents to C$33.30 while Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) fell 10 cents to $2.88.The gold sector was the major weight after two days of gains eve as December bullion rose $3.70 to US$1,729.70 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded 44 cents to C$44.47.The European debt crisis also kept traders on edge as cash-strapped Greece said it would issue unusually short-term debt on Tuesday in the hope of raising enough money to make a key bond repayment days later.It will issue C2.1 billion in four-week treasury bills and C1 billion in 13-week bills. Greece is not expected to get its next batch of international rescue loans by Nov. 16, when it has to roll over C5 billion in three-month treasury bills.Elsewhere on the corporate front, Robert Dutton, the top executive at home improvement retailer Rona (TSX:RON) is leaving the company after 20 years as president and chief executive. It also comes just months after the company fended off a takeover by American rival Lowe’s. Rona shares ran ahead 65 cents or 6.95 per cent to $10.TMX Group Ltd. (TSX:X), the owner of the Toronto Stock Exchange, has issued its first financial report since undergoing a strategic reorganization that included the acquisition of the Alpha Trading and CDS businesses and a new ownership structure led by the Maple Group. It posted $15.3 million of net income, or 53 cents per share and $113.4 million of revenue over the two months following the reorganization. Its shares gave back 91 cents to $47.75.European bourses turned mixed as London’s FTSE 100 index lost 0.08 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX dropped 0.63 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 was up 0.7 per cent.

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