TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was modestly lower Thursday, ending a three-day winning streak that saw Canada's main index advance almost 300 points.At mid-afternoon, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 40.93 points at 14,906.58, held back mostly by mining and energy issues as oil once again fell below US$60 a barrel.The loonie was up 0.39 of a U.S. cent at 81.04 cents.On commodity markets, the August crude oil contract lost 44 cents to US$59.83 a barrel, while August gold gave back 60 cents to US$1,172.30 an ounce.In New York, markers steadied after a big drop Wednesday that saw the Dow Jones industrial average plunge 178 points.The Dow was marginally lower, down 2.67 points at 17,963.40 at mid-afternoon, while the Nasdaq was up 1.37 points at 5,123.79 and the S&P 500 gained .77 of a point to 2,109.35.Observers had blamed Wednesday's retreat on a couple of factors, including worries over a possible debt default by Greece at the end of the month and a renewed focus by traders on the likelihood of the U.S. Federal Reserve beginning to increase interest rates as early as September.The Fed's trendsetting policy rate has been near zero since 2008, something that has been credited with helping boost the recovery on markets since the Great Recession.On Thursday, investors were encouraged by a Commerce Department report showing consumer spending rose 0.9 per cent last month. That was up from a revised 0.1 per cent increase in April and higher than the 0.7 per cent gain generally expected by economists.The increase was the biggest since August 2009, when the U.S. government's "Cash for Clunkers" program fuelled auto-buying and suggest the knock-on effects of solid jobs growth and cheaper gasoline are starting to ripple through the U.S. economy.Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at RBC Economics, said in a note that the data showed "a clear upward trajectory" in consumer spending "consistent with the view that as the severe winter weather conditions eased, household spending strengthened."While a separate report from the U.S. Labor Department showed a slight uptick in U.S. jobless claims for the week ended June 20, the four-week moving average still managed to move lower."The report is indicative of continued strength in labour markets that should continue to support consumer spending going forward," Ferley said.
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