The Toronto stock market was lower Tuesday as traders hoped for a favourable lookahead from Alcoa Inc. when the resource giant kicks off of the fourth quarter corporate earnings season after the close.The S&P/TSX composite index lost 36.91 points to 12,462.64 while the TSX Venture Exchange rose 0.64 of a point to 1,224.53.The Canadian dollar was down 0.18 of a cent to 101.27 cents US.U.S. markets were lower as the Dow Jones industrials declined 50.81 points to 13,333.48, the Nasdaq was down 11.08 points to 3,087.74 and the S&P index slipped 7.38 points to 1,454.51.Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is expected to turn in earnings per share of six cents on revenue of US$5.61 billion after posting a loss of three cents a share a year ago.But traders will likely be most interested in the aluminum company’s outlook against a background of tepid economic growth around the globe. Alcoa has been dealing with sharply lower aluminum prices, down 15 per cent from a year ago.Alcoa traditionally starts the run of U.S. quarterly earnings. The company is viewed as a bellwether for the overall economy as its products are used in everything from cars to aircraft to appliances.It’s also viewed as a good indication of where the overall resource sector is at, an important consideration for a market like the TSX that is heavily weighted in favour of commodity-based companies.Alcoa shares ticked five cents higher to US$9.15 in New York.Gold stocks led TSX decliners while the February bullion contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained $9.70 to US$1,656 an ounce after three days of losses and the gold sector was per cent.Gold prices have suffered in recent days because of uncertainty about whether the U.S. Federal Reserve might end its stimulus program of bond buying in the second half of 2013. Minutes from the Fed’s latest policy meeting showed a split over how long to continue the purchases amid concerns that they could destabilize the economy.The bond buying, known as quantitative easing, has supported bullion prices because of worries the program would drive inflation higher. Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation.Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) shares were down 48 cents to C$34.21 after it announced Monday that it is raising its monthly dividend by 11 per cent to five cents per share.Elsewhere in the gold sector, African Barrick Gold PLC stock plunged about 20 per cent on the London stock exchange after Canadian parent Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) announced that talks about a potential sale to China National Gold have broken off without a deal. The Toronto-based Barrick Gold owns about three-quarters of the ABG shares outstanding and Barrick Gold shares faded 52 cents to C$33.05.The metals and mining sector was off 0.7 per cent while the March copper contract was down a penny at US$3.67 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) shed 44 cents to C$36.71 while First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) shed 24 cents to $21.47.Oil prices erased early gains ahead of the release of data expected to show a rise of 1.5 million barrels in crude oil stocks and 2.6 million barrels in gasoline stocks last week, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday.The February crude contract dipped 10 cents to US$93.09 a barrel.The energy sector stepped back 0.37 per cent and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) lost 28 cents to C$29.50 while Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) fell 39 cents to $42.80.Financials were also in the red with Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF) down 25 cents to $27.14 while Royal Bank (TSX:RY) gave back 29 cents to $60.52.Tech stocks provided most lift as Research In Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) rose 16 cents to $11.92.In economic news, traders took in data showing that the chronic government debt crisis in Europe has pushed unemployment to record highs in the 17-nation eurozone. The jobless rate hit 11.8 per cent in December, up from 11.7 per cent the previous month.Investors found some comfort in a separate report showing business and consumer sentiment in the eurozone rose in December by more than analysts were expecting and that retail sales edged up in November. That suggests that the improvement in financial markets during those months helped economic activity stabilize. Analysts warned, however, not to expect any imminent turnaround in the economy.European bourses were mixed as London’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.06 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX inched down 0.21 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.44 per cent.Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index tumbled 0.9 per cent as the yen crept upward against the U.S. dollar. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.9 per cent while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.7 per cent.Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand fell, while Malaysia and the Philippines rose. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 per cent.