TORONTO — North American markets were slightly lower Friday following better-than-expected durable goods orders in April that suggested encouraging news for U.S. manufacturers.The S&P/TSX composite index fell 11.91 points to 12,646.18.On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials average dropped 66.76 points to 15,227.74, the Nasdaq lost 21.49 points to 3,437.93, while the S&P 500 dipped 10.50 points to 1,640.01.The Canadian dollar was down 0.34 of a cent to 96.72 cents US.The U.S. Commerce Department reported durable goods orders for April rose 3.3% after a 5.9% decline in March. Analysts had predicted a jump of only 1.5%. The department says the figure was buoyed by more demand for military and civilian aircraft and an increase in business investment.But the positive news was not enough to bounce back the markets, which fell a day earlier over unexpectedly weak Chinese manufacturing numbers and worries that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start withdrawing its monetary stimulus.The Fed is buying $85 billion worth of bonds every month as part of its stimulus program that has kept interest rates low and encouraged investors to put money into stocks and other risky assets. If the Fed slows down or ends its bond purchases, investors fear it could lead to an outpouring of money from stocks.Earlier this week, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said the central does not plan on doing this soon, but will consider it as early as next September.Meanwhile, the commodities market continued see modest declines.The July crude contract was down $1.01 to US$93.24 a barrel, while June gold bullion lost $2.50 to US$1,389.30 an ounce. July copper was down a penny at US$3.29 a pound.The Toronto Stock Exchange was boosted by a lift from Manitoba Telecom Services after its shares rose $1.78 to $33.88 in early-morning trading.Winnipeg-based MTS announced that it will be selling its national telecommunications arm, Allstream, to Accelero Capital Holdings in a deal worth $520 million.Shares in National Bank also climbed by 1.38%, or $1.04, to $76.60 after Canada’s sixth-largest bank said it was hiking its dividend and buying back some of its shares because its second-quarter profit beat analyst estimates by a wide margin.Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, which plummeted more than 7% Thursday, posted a big morning gain and then took investors on a dizzying ride into negative territory swinging more than 1,000 points between the day’s high and low before closing 0.9% higher at 14,612.45 on Friday.The Nikkei has been the best-performing major index this year, having risen around 45% to five-year highs before Thursday’s drop. The index has been buoyed by aggressive monetary stimulus by the Bank of Japan, which has piled pressure on the yen.In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was nearly unchanged at 6,695.82. Germany’s DAX rose 0.3% to 8,378.07. France’s CAC-40 gained 0.5% to 3,988.59.Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2% to 1,973.45. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bobbed between slight gains and losses before falling 0.2% to 22,618.67.Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 tumbled 1.6% to 4,983.50, hit by losses in banking and mining shares. Benchmarks in the Philippines, Taiwan and New Zealand also fell. Mainland Chinese shares rose, with the Shanghai Composite Index gaining 0.6% to 2,288.53, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose 1.5% to 1,029.3.