North American stocks pare gains amid China hiatus ECB stimulus moves

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market rose for a second consecutive session Thursday, but was well off highs of the day despite positive economic news at home and abroad.At midafternoon, the S&P/TSX composite was up 28.20 points at 13,573.45 on top of a 63-point gain on Wednesday as Statistics Canada reported that growth in exports helped shrink the country’s trade deficit in July, indicating the economy is on track for growth in the second half of the year.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average also retreated from a big triple-digit advance that came after the European Central Bank said it stands ready to give the eurozone a bigger dose of stimulus should inflation across the 19-country bloc fail to pick up.The Dow, which soared 293 points on Wednesday, was ahead 24.79 points at 16,376.17 at midafternoon, while the broader S&P 500 gained 3.15 points to 1,952.01. The Nasdaq gave back 11.32 points to 4,738.66.The Canadian dollar rose 0.37 of a U.S. cent to 75.72 cents US amid mixed commodity prices.The benchmark October crude oil contract edged three cents lower to US$46.22 a barrel, while October natural gas gained seven cents to US$2.71 per thousand cubic feet and December copper was up four cents at US$2.37 a pound. December gold retreated $10.50 to US$1,123.10 an ounce.Earlier in the day, European markets soared after ECB president Mario Draghi commented on the bank’s stimulus plans at a news conference. Germany’s DAX closed up 2.7 per cent, France’s CAC-40 up 2.2 per cent and Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.8 per cent.Along with lower interest rates, the ECB is already pumping 60 billion euros a month into the economy through purchases of government and corporate bonds. The program is slated to run at least through September 2016. U.S. traders remain cautious while they await the results of the next policy rate meeting of the Federal Reserve Board, which begins Sept. 17.Chances of a September interest rate hike have diminished amid reports of an economic slowdown in China and recent volatility on global equity markets. However, Fed officials have refused to completely rule out a hike in rates that have been at historic lows since the Great Recession, citing continuing strength in the U.S. economy.One factor that will weigh on the Fed decision will be the U.S. jobs report out Friday. Consensus estimates call for American employers to have created 220,000 jobs last month, with unemployment rate dropping to 5.2 per cent.

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