Tuesday, March 19, 2013 00:39 PM EST TSX flat near midday RONA hires former Metro boss Stronger gold prices and the announcement of a new leader at hardware retailer Rona Inc. clashed with lower metal prices to send the Toronto stock market lower near midday The S&P TSX index turned negative 9.86 points to greet noon Tuesday at 12,771.90 The Canadian dollar sagged 0.60 cents to 97.30 cents U.S. The consumer discretionary index rose after Rona hired Robert Sawyer, a senior executive from the Metro grocery business, to be its next president and chief executive starting next month. The company’s shares were up 4.7%, or 49 cents, to $11.05. Shares in convenience store owner Couche-Tard were down after it reported profits rose to $142.5 million, or 75 cents a share, from $86.8 million, or 48 cents, a year earlier. The stock fell nearly 1.4%, or 81 cents, to $54.78. Lululemon shares took a hit after the company said it has yanked its popular black yoga pants from store shelves because the material was too sheer. The company warned of lower than expected sales because of a shortage of the extraordinarily popular clothing items, which make up make up about 17% of all women’s pants and crop pants in its stores. Shares fell 5%, or $4.93, to $3.33. Speaking of things economic, Statistics Canada reported this morning that manufacturing sales edged down 0.2% in January to $48 billion, the fourth downward month in five. The nation’s number crunchers also told us that wholesale sales rose by 0.3% in January to $49 billion, mostly due to higher computer and communications equipment sales. ON BAYSTREET The TSX Venture Exchange turned lower 3.59 points to 1,108.19 The 14 Toronto subgroups were evenly split between gainers and losers, with gold soaring 1%, consumer discretionary stocks up 0.5%, and information technology 0.3% to the good. The seven laggards were weighed mostly by metals and mining, down 2.9%, global base metals, off 2.4%, while energy wilted 0.3%. ON WALLSTREET U.S. stocks were mixed Tuesday, as investors anxiously monitored developments in Cyprus and welcomed strong housing data. The Dow Jones Industrials faced midday off 27.46 points to 14,424.60. The S&P 500 index was 10.18 points lower to 1,551.92. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite moved down 14.18 points to 3,223.41. In corporate news, shares of Canadian athletic apparel maker Lululemon Athletica tumbled after the company announced a recall of yoga pants that were unintentionally see-through. Shoe retailer DSW missed revenue forecasts and issued cautious guidance about sales, prompting the company's stock to plunge. Electronic Arts Inc. shares declined after the company announced its chief executive was resigning. EA also said its revenue and earnings would be at the low end or below its January guidance. Shares of Walgreen rose 7% after the company and Alliance Boots, in which Walgreen bought a stake last year, agreed to a 10-year partnership with pharmaceutical distributorAmerisourceBergen. Shares of rival distributor Cardinal Health, whose own contract with Walgreen expires later this year, declined on the news. Economically speaking, investors were encouraged by a report from the U.S. Census Bureau that showed housing starts rose 0.8% in February, while building permits jumped 4.6%. Shares of homebuilders Lennar , Toll Brothers and Hovnanian gained ground. Despite the good news at home, investors continued to keep a wary eye on Cyprus. The heavily indebted nation has been in the spotlight since the weekend, as the European Union has been trying to impose a one-time tax on bank deposits as part of a €10-billion bailout package. Lawmakers in Cyprus are scheduled to vote later Tuesday on the controversial measure. Prices on the 10-year U.S. Treasury enjoyed a slight gain, lowering yields to 1.91% from Monday’s 1.96%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions. Oil prices retreated 47 cents to $93.27 U.S. a barrel. Gold prices recovered $7.30 to $1,611.90 U.S. an ounce.