Thursday, February 07, 2013 04:23 PM EST Index flat as gold offsets weakness Manulife, BCE among big names Toronto's main stock index was little changed on Thursday as a rise in gold stocks in tandem with higher prices for the precious metal helped offset a wave of negative sentiment after the European Central Bank warned about weak euro-zone economies. The S&P/TSX composite index shed 5.67 points to finish Thursday at 12,755.92 The Canadian dollar pointed downward 0.25 cents to 100.21 cents U.S. Manulife Financial reported a fourth-quarter profit on tax and investment gains, as well as stronger sales of insurance and wealth products in its Asian division. The stock rose 1.2% to $14.58. Telecom giant BCE Inc. reported higher quarterly profit and raised its dividend, helped by its wireless and media divisions and investment gains. The stock gained 0.2% to $44.43. Shares of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp rose 1.1% to $42.10 after the pharmacy chain reported a fourth-quarter sales increase and profit that slightly exceeded expectations. Gold stocks were some of the biggest gainers. Barrick Gold Corp added 0.3% to $32.69, and Yamana Gold Inc was up 1.8% to $16.73. Shares of Teck Resources slipped 6% to $34.45 after the diversified miner reported a sharp drop in fourth-quarter earnings as higher copper sales failed to offset the impact of sagging coal prices. Investors initially had been buoyed by the European Central Bank's decision to hold interest rates steady and by a fall in U.S. jobless claims that pointed to a modest improvement in the country's labour market. But sentiment shifted, denting stocks, after ECB President Mario Draghi said policymakers will monitor the impact of a rising currency. On the domestic economic docket, Statistics Canada reported this morning that its new housing price index perked 0.2% in December, after a 0.1% increase the month before. Moreover, the nation’s number crunchers told us that the value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities slid 11.2% to $5.7 billion in December, following a 14.5% decline in November. Both residential and non-residential sectors announced fewer builds during the last month of 2012. ON BAYSTREET The TSX Venture Exchange slipped 5.61 points to 1,206.11 The 14 Toronto subgroups were evenly split between gainers and losers. Information technology proved the strongest gainer, picking up 1.4%, while health-care progressed 1.1% and consumer staples prospered 0.4%. The seven laggards were led by metals and mining stocks, down 2.1%, global base metals, off 1.3%, and telecoms, sliding 0.5%. ON WALLSTREET American stocks faded Thursday, as traders took a step back and digested mixed economic news and a slew of earnings reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 42.47 points – well off their lows of the day -- to close at 13,944. The S&P 500 index fell 3.60 points to 1,508.52. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite surrendered 3.34 points to 3,165.13 Stocks have stalled this week after a strong start to the year. The Dow and S&P 500 are both up more than 5% in 2013, and near their all-time highs. The NASDAQ has gained more than 4% so far this year. In corporate news, Akamai Technologies, which provides Internet content delivery, delivered weak fourth-quarter results and a disappointing revenue forecast. The lackluster news sent the company's stock plunging 16%, making it the biggest loser in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100. News Corp was also a big laggard after the media giant issued a downbeat earnings forecast for the year. And Green Mountain Coffee Roasters shares tumbled on the company's weak outlook for sales growth. Sprint shares faltered after the cell phone carrier reported a fourth-quarter loss in line with expectations. Shares of Sony dropped after the electronics manufacturer reported a surprising third-quarter loss. Alcatel Lucent posted another quarterly loss, sending shares lower. The communications equipment maker also said its CEO would be stepping down. On the positive side, JPMorgan Chase upgraded shares of Devry after the company reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue. The sock jumped 16%. Retailers were also big movers as they reported sales figures for January. Macy's shares climbed after the retailer reported a better-than-expected 11.7% rise in same-store sales for last month. Gap, Costco, Target and Limited Brands also posted January sales figures that topped forecasts. Shares of Blackberry gained ground after the smartphone maker said the Canadian launch of its new Z10 smartphone was its best launch ever. Apple shares were in the spotlight after activist investor David Einhorn publicly called for the electronics maker to give some of its $137-billion U.S. cash hoard to back to shareholders in the form of preferred stock. LinkedIn headlines the group of companies reporting after markets close. On the economic front Thursday, weekly initial jobless claims came in at 366,000, down 5,000 from the previous week but above forecasts. Meanwhile, the nation's business productivity dropped 2% in 2012's fourth quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than economists were expecting. Prices on the 10-year U.S. Treasury grew, lowering yields to 1.95% from Wednesday’s 1.97%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions. Oil prices took on 61 cents to $95.75 U.S. a barrel. Gold prices dropped six dollars to $1,672.80 U.S. an ounce.