* TSX dips 0.04 percent to 13,443.45
* Base metal miners higher, golds slide (Adds details)
TORONTO, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was slightly lower on Thursday morning as materials issues were mixed and strong U.S. economic data failed to buoy the market.
The materials group was marginally higher with base metal and fertilizer producers lifted by stronger commodity prices, but held in check by weakness among gold miners.
Teck Resources TCKb.TO advanced 1.6 percent to C$60.88, while Agrium (AGU.TO) rose 1.2 percent to C$91.31
The materials group has been one of the most influential TSX sectors for the last several sessions, rising more than 2.7 percent as copper has surged to a record high, while other base metals have reached multi-week highs.
Prices of precious metals also climbed on Thursday, including gold, but Toronto’s gold mining stocks failed to benefit, limiting the materials group’s gain to 0.1 percent.
At 10:25 a.m. (1525 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 5.72 points, or 0.04 percent, at 13,443.45. Eight of the 10 main groups were lower.
Economic news from the United States was positive but had little impact on the overall market.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped more than expected last week to their lowest level in more than two years, suggesting the labor market recovery was gaining strength.
Adding to rising confidence, business activity in the U.S. Midwest rose unexpectedly in December. [ID:nN3097646] [ID:nN3095591]
“When the market doesn’t rally with all this good news, it flashes a bit of a warning sign. Sometimes it’s a turning point,” said John Kurgan, senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock, though he cautioned light trading may also be exacerbating moves by the TSX composite.
He said his technical analysis was showing a sell signal, partly because the index has climbed about 16 percent since late August.
Kurgan said he expects the new year will probably start with bouts of weakness but forecasts an overall rise in 2011.
“(It‘s) not a bad year overall but we will start in a bit of a handicap position where we will get a bit of a correction,” he said.
In individual company news, Baffinland Iron Mines BIM.TO was up 0.75 percent at C$1.35 after ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer, extended the deadline on its takeover bid for the company, but did not alter the terms of its offer. [ID:nN29294215]
$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson