TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market extended a string of losses Wednesday as the potential damage from the looming "fiscal cliff" political crisis in Washington continued to cast a shadow over earnings reports and dividend increases from several companies.

The S&P/TSX composite index lost 59.58 points to 12,075.08 while the TSX Venture Exchange fell 6.28 points to 1,280.61.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.08 of a cent to 99.89 cents US.

Home improvement chain Rona Inc. (TSX:RON) stock rose after fund manager Invesco Canada, which controls about one-tenth of the company's stock, called for shareholders to remove Rona's board of directors and install new directors. Rona shares gained 57 cents or 5.19 per cent to $11.55.

U.S. indexes were little changed as the Dow Jones industrials slipped 12.35 points to 12,743.83, the Nasdaq rose 8.33 points to 2,892.22 while the S&P 500 index inched up 0.57 of a point to 1,375.1.

Cisco Systems Inc. shares surged more than seven per cent after the world's largest maker of computer networking gear said that its earnings rose 18 per cent in the latest quarter to US$2.1 billion or 39 cents a share.

Cisco's growth was propelled by a renewed willingness by large U.S. businesses to invest in big-ticket networking gear, even as the federal government continued to hold back. Orders from large business customers in the U.S. rose nine per cent from a year ago, helping to make up for continued weakness in Europe, where economic turmoil is still causing a big drop-off in orders.

Stock markets have registered a series of losses over the last week after the results of the U.S. election essentially left the political landscape unchanged. And that heightened pessimism that lawmakers can come together and arrange a compromise to avoid a so-called fiscal cliff at the start of the year.

That's when a series of tax cuts from the Bush-era expire, which would raise tax bills for almost all Americans. As well, huge spending cuts are automatically set to take effect, which would take a huge chunk out of U.S. gross domestic product and likely push the economy back into recession, taking other countries' economies with it.

President Barack Obama was to meet later Wednesday with about a dozen business executives who want to see an agreement before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. Federal Reserve official backed a new plan to set interest rates. Fed vice-chairman Janet Yellen said Tuesday the central bank should tie interest rate hikes to specific unemployment and inflation levels. The Fed has already committed to keeping rates near zero until mid-2015.

The gold sector led TSX decliners with Iamgold Corp. (TSX:IMG) tumbling 13.84 per cent to $12.82 after the miner reported a 10 per cent drop in revenue to $386.8 million in the latest quarter. Net earnings ran up 56 per cent to $78 million. Ex-items, earnings came in at 60.2 million, or 16 cents a share, down from $112.4 million a year ago. Analysts had called for adjusted earnings per share of 24 cents on $427 million in revenue.

Elsewhere in the sector, Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) lost 41 cents to $42.52 while December bullion gained $4.70 to US$1,729.50 an ounce.

The base metals sector was down 0.85 per cent with December copper unchanged at US$3.47 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) shed 40 cents to $21.79.

Teck Resources Ltd. (TSX:TCK.B) said it will pay a dividend of 45 cents per share on its outstanding Class A common shares and Class B subordinate voting shares on Jan. 2, 2013. The company says this represents a 12.5 per cent increase from the previous dividend. Its shares added two cents to $32.83.

The energy sector was off 0.34 per cent as December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose six cents to US$85.44 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) declined 11 cents to $27.61.

Consumer stocks lent lift to the TSX amid positive earnings reports from two of the country's biggest grocers.

Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU) reported its quarterly net income was up 75.9 per cent compared with the same time last year, rising to $145.1 million or $1.46 per share. Metro's overall sales were up 11.1 per cent to $2.9 billion, while same-store sales from locations open at least a year were up 1.1 per cent. Its shares ticked 13 cents higher to $58.71.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TX:L) shares ran up 99 cents to $34.34 as the company increased its quarterly dividend by nearly five per cent. The grocery, pharmacy and merchandise retailer announced the increase along with its third-quarter financial report, which showed Loblaw's net income fell by 5.9 per cent to $222 million or 79 cents per share, however, due to several items excluded from the adjusted earnings.

European bourses were lower with London's FTSE 100 index down 0.61 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX fell 0.4 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 was off 0.66 per cent.

In Asia, investors heralded the leadership transition taking place at China's Communist Party Congress this week. On Wednesday, President Hu Jintao stepped aside to make way for Vice President Xi Jinping as party leader. Traders were hopeful that the transition will be followed by greater initiatives to shore up China's listless economy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.2 per cent. Mainland Chinese shares also gained, with the Shanghai Composite Index rising 0.4 per cent while the Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.3 per cent. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose marginally.