The S&P/TSX composite index was off 5.68 points to 12,755.92 while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 5.61 points to 1,206.11.
The Canadian dollar finished the session down 0.25 of a cent to 100.2 cents US as the greenback strengthened against other currencies, particularly the euro, after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to keep a close eye on the recent rise of the continental currency. Some of the region’s leaders worry the advance has the potential to weaken the region’s economy further.
The dollar also fell amid a worse than expected report from the housing sector and ahead of the January employment report coming out Friday morning.
Statistics Canada said that Canadian building permits fell by 11.2 per cent in December. That was much worse than expectations for a 2.5 per cent rise.
U.S. indexes were negative amid data showing productivity contracted at an annual rate of two per cent in the October-December quarter, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2011. Other reports showed lower jobless insurance claims and a positive reading on same-store sales from American retailers.
The Dow Jones industrials lost 42.47 points to 13,944.05, the Nasdaq composite index was 3.35 points lower at 3,165.13 and the S&P 500 index edged down 2.73 points to 1,509.39.
Markets have moved largely sideways this month following a strong start to the year, with the TSX gaining two per cent and the Dow jumping six per cent in January.
"Overall, I think the market run-up is probably one of the best Januarys we have seen in years, especially in the U.S.," said Allan Small, senior adviser at DWM Securities.
"The January effect hopefully will work again this year. As goes January, so goes the rest of the year and that’s correct 80 per cent of the time."
On the Canadian earnings front, Teck Resources Ltd. (TSX:TCK.B) was a major drag on the TSX even as the miner reported earnings for the latest quarter were $354 million or 61 cents per share, 13 cents above the consensus estimate. But its shares fell $2.19 or 5.98 per cent to $34.45 as Teck also warned that copper production is expected to fall to 340,000 to 360,000 tonnes in 2013, compared with 373,000 tonnes in 2012. It cited declining output at the Quebrada Blanca mine in Chile and lower ore grades at Highland Valley Copper in Canada.
In the meantime, improved economic performance in China, reflected in recent data showing stronger expansion in the country's manufacturing sector, should help the miner in the future.
"Teck is going to move a lot with respect to China and as China grows, so will the share prices at Teck," Small said.
"Teck will continue to have challenges moving forward (but) over the long term, it will be fine because China will continue to get better but there will be ups and downs."
Telecom BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) said adjusted earnings rose at a more moderate 4.8 per cent to 65 cents per share, a penny short of analyst estimates. BCE also raised its dividend by six cents to $2.33 per common share annually and its shares dipped nine cents to $44.43.
Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC) gained 14 cents to $14.55 as the insurer's net profit soared to $1.06 billion in the fourth quarter, more than double analyst expectations. However, Manulife’s core earnings were disappointing at $537 million or 28 cents per share in the quarter, which was four cents below the consensus estimate. All-in revenue, including investment and other items, was just under $7.2 billion, $2.5 billion below analyst estimates.
Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) edged a penny lower to $2.44 as the carrier posted a fourth-quarter profit of $8 million, or three cents per diluted share, reversing a year-earlier net loss of $60 million. Operating revenue rose to $2.84 billion from just under $2.7 billion.
The metals and mining sector was the leading decliner. It was down almost two per cent, reflecting Teck's decline, while March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange gave up early gains and was down one cent at US$3.73 a pound. Elsewhere in the sector, HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) declined 35 cents to C$11.22.
The energy sector dropped 0.42 per cent with the March crude oil contract down 79 cents at US$95.83 a barrel. Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) lost 48 cents to C$32.90.
The tech sector was the leading advancer with BlackBerry (TSX:BB) ahead 93 cents or 5.82 per cent to $16.91, reflecting high hopes for the new Z10 smartphone and an upgrade in the stock to outperform from market perform from U.S. bank Wells Fargo.
Consumer staples stocks gained 0.45 per cent with Shoppers Drug Mart (TSX:SC) ahead 46 cents to $42.10 after Canada’s largest pharmacy retailer reported its net income was $175 million in the fourth quarter, or 85 cents per share, down slightly from $176 million in the year earlier period. Shoppers is also raising its quarterly dividend by 7.5 per cent to 28.5 cents per share.
The gold sector was up about 0.4 per cent as April bullion finished the session down $7.50 to US$1,671.30 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) improved by 24 cents to C$36.06.