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TSX, Dow flat; Nasdaq surges on strong earnings reports from tech heavyweights

TORONTO - Stock markets in Toronto and New York ended the week relatively flat amid concerns over the strength of the U.S. economic recovery despite impressive headline numbers on growth in the American durable goods sector.An exception was the Nasdaq, which continued its march into record territory on the heels of earnings reports from big technology companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon that beat expectations.The tech-heavy index, which closed at an all-time high of 5,056.06 on Thursday, advanced another 36.03 points to 5,092.09 on Friday. The S&P 500 also managed a record close at 2,117.69 despite adding just 4.76 points to finish marginally above its previous record set in March.Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrials advanced a modest 21.45 points to 18,080.14.In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index edged 15.98 points higher to 15,408.33, held back by lower oil and gold prices. The Canadian dollar was down 0.16 of a U.S. cent at 82.17 cents.The June crude oil contract was 59 cents lower at US$57.15 a barrel, while June gold gave back $19.30 to US$1,175 an ounce.The metals an mining sector was the leading advancer on the TSX, up 4.72 per cent as May copper rose five cents to US$2.75 a pound, although the price of the widely used metal was still below last Friday's close of $2.77 a pound.Weighing on markets was a report from the U.S. Commerce Department showing some worrying trends on durable goods, even though overall orders rebounded from a decline in February to a four per cent gain in March, well above the 0.6 per cent advance that had been expected.Outside of the transportation category, however, orders fell for a sixth straight month, down 0.2 per cent. More worrying was a 0.5 per cent drop in non-defence capital goods orders excluding aircraft.The category, considered a proxy for future investment, was down for a seventh consecutive month, a result RBC Economics called "disappointing.""Purchases of long-lasting manufactured goods in March jumped by the largest amount in eight months, but a closer look at the details reveals that businesses kept pruning their investment plans in the face of a softening U.S. economy," RBC said in a note."The report was yet another false positive that looks good in the headline but is eroding away underneath," added Michael Montgomery, U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight.In corporate news, PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) announced it removing the use of aspartame in Diet Pepsi in response to customer feedback and replacing it with sucralose, another artificial sweetener commonly known as Splenda. It shares lost 56 cents to US$95.17.The CPPIB joined other fund managers Friday in criticizing how Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) pays its top executives, saying the practice of granting "outsized awards on a largely discretionary basis" was "inconsistent with the governance principle of pay-for-performance." Barrick shares were off 10 cents at $15.24 in what was mostly a down day for gold producers.— With files from The Associated Press

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