Toronto's resource-heavy main stock index dipped into the red on Wednesday morning as materials issues rose on steady gold and metals prices.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index dipped 39.84 points to begin Wednesday at 12,390.86.
The Canadian dollar faltered 0.09 cents at 100.77 cents U.S.
Among stocks to watch this morning, news and information giant Thomson Reuters Corp. has resumed an auction of its healthcare unit after shelving the process last year due to tough market conditions.
Broadcast technology whiz Miranda Technologies Inc said it will continue to talk to potential partners, after several expressions of interests failed to lead to a transaction in the last 12 months.
Auto parts maker Martinrea International Inc. registered a rise in quarterly profit, as its customers ramped up production of light vehicles in North America.
Pacific Wildcat Resources has said it will drill this year at a new site in Kenya that has shown potential for rare earth deposits.
On the economic beat, Statistics Canada reported that its composite leading index – a basket of vital economic indicators – ran its winning streak to eight straight months in February, jumping 0.6%, following a 0.4% gain in January. Last month, according to the agency, six of the 10 components rose.
The TSX Venture Exchange regained 8.11 points to 1,578.81, while the Nasdaq Canada index dipped 1.80 to 415.48
All but four of the 14 Toronto subgroups stumbled out of the gate. Metals and mining stocks tumbled 1.5%, while global base metals lost 1.2%, and financials slid 0.7%.
The four gainers were led by industrials, moving up 0.3%, consumer discretionaries improved 0.2%, and gold eked ahead 0.1%.
In New York, stocks opened modestly higher Wednesday, as investors pushed aside worries of a cooling Chinese economy and await more U.S. housing market data.
The Dow Jones Industrials moved doggedly through the first hour, but staggered 7.99 points to 13,162.20.
The S&P 500 gave back 1.69 points to 1,403.83, while the Nasdaq inched up 0.83 points to 3,074.98.
General Mills reported sales of $4.1 billion U.S., and earnings per share of 55 cents U.S. on Wednesday morning.
The food producer cited its international acquisition of Yoplait as a source of growth, but noted that its margins were squeezed by higher input prices. Shares were off slightly in premarket trading.
Shares of Hartford Financial Services Group were up almost 6% in early trading after the company said it was exiting the annuity business and was considering "strategic alternatives" for part of its life insurance business.
Strategic alternatives usually include a sale -- something advocated by hedge-fund manager John Paulson, who owns a sizable stake in the company.
Hewlett-Packard announced plans to combine its printer and personal computer divisions. As part of the reshuffle, Vyomesh "VJ" Joshi, who heads HP's imaging and printing group, was stepping down.
After Tuesday's close, Oracle reported better-than-expected earnings, lifting the tech company's shares about 2% in early trading.
The housing market was in focus Wednesday, with a report on existing home sales and a measure of weekly mortgage applications on tap.
Stocks have been supported this year by rising hopes for the U.S. economy and easing concerns about the debt crisis in Europe. But the housing market's distress still weighs heavily on investors, as they continue to look for signs of recovery.
Data released by the government on Tuesday showed a big increase in requests for building permits in February, although new home construction was weaker than expected.
U.S. stocks closed lower Tuesday, as concerns about slowing growth in China overshadowed the upbeat housing data.
In matters economic, existing home sales for February are expected to come in at an annual rate of 4.6 million, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com -- up from a rate of 4.57 million in January.
Gas prices rose by 1.8 cents to a national average of $3.86 U.S. a gallon, according to motorist group AAA. Wednesday marks the 12th consecutive day prices have risen. Gas prices are up 17.8% this year.
The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury gained back lost ground, pushing the yield lower to 2.32% from 2.37% Tuesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil for February delivery moved up 50 cents to $106.57 U.S. a barrel.
Gold futures for April delivery rose $3.40 to $1,650.40 U.S. an ounce.