TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market closed little changed Wednesday, supported by rising oil and copper prices amid further evidence of a slow housing recovery and strong corporate earnings in the U.S.

But the market was held back by sliding gold stocks as bullion fell for a third session.

The S&P/TSX composite index inched up 7.96 points to 11,579.15 while traders took in major dealmaking.

Canada's fourth-largest cable company has a deal to acquire a U.S. system operator for US$1.36 billion. Montreal-based Cogeco Cable Inc. (TSX:CCA) says it has a definitive agreement to buy Atlantic Broadband, a private company that operates in five states. The deal will be Cogeco's entry into the United States. Cogeco stock slid $6.60 or 14.83 per cent to $37.90.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.18 of a cent at 98.94 cents US.

The TSX Venture Exchange added 5.59 points to 1,182.34.

U.S. markets turned higher as American builders last month broke ground on the most new homes and apartments in nearly four years.

The U.S. Commerce Department says that housing starts rose 6.9 per cent in June from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000, which beat expectations of 743,000. At the same time, the number of permits to build homes, a sign of future construction, fell 3.7 per cent to 755,000. But that's down from May's three-and-a-half-year high.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 103.16 points to 12,908.7.

The Nasdaq composite index was ahead 32.56 points to 2,942.6 and the S&P 500 index was up 9.11 points to 1,372.78.

Shares in Intel shook off early weakness to move up 83 cents to $26.21 following an announcement Tuesday after the close that the weak global economy is slowing its growth, and revenue for the current quarter is likely to come in below forecasts.

Intel's second-quarter net income was US$2.83 billion, or 54 cents per share, down 4.3 per cent from a year earlier, as operating expenses rose faster than revenue. Net income beat forecasts by two cents.

Honeywell International, a big technology and manufacturing company, reported an 11 per cent increase in second-quarter income Wednesday, more than Wall Street was expecting, thanks to higher demand for its products. Honeywell also raised its forecast for full-year profits. Honeywell's stock jumped $3.64 to US$58.18.

After the close, there was further good news from IBM. The tech bellwether turned in earnings per share of US$3.51, beating analyst estimates by nine cents a share. Its stock moved up 0.75 per cent in after-hours trading.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve's latest take on growth said the U.S. economy grew at a "modest to moderate" pace over the last month and a half as more districts are reporting slowing growth.

However, the so-called Beige Book, which covered the economy between June and early July, said three regions, up from one in the last survey, reported slowing growth. The slowdown appeared to be concentrated in the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions, as the New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland districts saw slowing growth.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke earlier Wednesday told a congressional panel that despite slowing economic conditions, he does not expect the U.S. to fall into recession.

Investors also watched Bernanke's comments to see if the central bank may be close to launching another round of bond purchases. But some analysts questioned whether another round of stimulus is what is needed for the economic recovery.

"Governments around the world, namely the U.S., have to get themselves off of this addiction that the Fed will come in and rescue the day," said Chris Kuflik, wealth adviser at ScotiaMcLeod in Montreal.

"I was actually kind of happy that he didn't (unveil new stimulus measures Tuesday). Because to me, that means that things are not quite as bad as they seem."

The base metals group led TSX advancers, up 1.33 per cent as copper prices gained two cents to US$3.47 a pound. Ivanhoe Mines (TSX:IVN) improved by 56 cents to C$8.84 while Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) edged up seven cents to $2.63.

Intel's better-than-expected earnings helped push the Canadian tech sector 0.6 per cent higher as CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) climbed 33 cents to $23.99, while Open Text (TSX:OTC) climbed 70 cents to $48.16.

The consumer staples sector was up 0.68 per cent as convenience store chain Alimentation Couche Tard (TSX:ATD.B) gained 45 cents to $48.37. Couche-Tard Inc. says it has a deal to acquire 27 locations in the State of Washington through its Circle K division. The price of the acquisition is being kept confidential.

The TSX energy sector rose 0.3 per cent as the August crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 65 cents to a seven-week high of US$89.87 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) climbed 76 cents to C$28.07.

Financials were also positive as Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) rose 24 cents to $52.29.

The gold sector was the weakest component, down 1.77 per cent as gold faded $18.70 to US$1,570.80 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) gave back $1.24 to C$32.86 and Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) shed 42 cents to $34.66.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, fertilizer company Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) said that it is expecting record earnings for the second quarter. The Calgary-based firm said earnings will be in the range of $5.40 to $5.50 diluted earnings per share while first half earnings will come in at a range of $6.72 to $6.82 per share. Agrium said the revised estimates are about 15 per cent higher than previously announced. Its stock moved up $2.78 to $96.69.