TSX up slightly amid mixed corporate earnings reports, strong economic data

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TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Tuesday amid a mixed slate of earnings data and a couple of strong U.S. economic reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 10.9 points to 13,692.38, well off the best levels of the session as the gold and financial sectors turned negative.

The Canadian dollar tumbled 0.86 of a cent to 91.34 cents US, with currency traders cautious ahead of next week’s Bank of Canada interest rate announcement.

The U.S. dollar strengthened and New York indexes registered strong gains after the U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 0.2 per cent last month, higher than the 0.1 per cent increase that economists expected.

Other data showed that U.S. companies built up their stockpiles in November by 0.4 per cent as sales improved. Continued growth in inventories suggests businesses believe consumers will increase spending in the months ahead.

The Dow Jones industrials ran ahead 115.92 points to 16,373.86, the Nasdaq advanced 69.72 points to 4,183.02 and the S&P 500 index climbed 19.68 points to 1,838.88.

Markets sold off Monday on concerns about what the Federal Reserve might do about further cutting back on its key stimulus program and worries about whether the American equity markets were looking too expensive and that perhaps it was time for a correction.

“I think that a correction is appropriate and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one,” said Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory in Ottawa, a Raymond James company.

“We’ve had two or three false starts to corrections, but they were very short-lived. You saw maybe one or two per cent corrections but that’s not enough to bring real money back into the market that’s been sidelined.”

The S&P 500 rocketed about 30 per cent last year, helped in large measure by Fed stimulus. Investors now want to see if strong earnings and revenue can justify that gain and push stock prices higher.

But Pashootan added that guidance is also very important for the quarter.

“If earnings are strong this season, it’s not necessarily related to the next quarter because a lot of what you’re seeing on this earnings announcement is a result of the economy improving over the last quarter and that’s already priced into the market,” he said.

On Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase shares inched up four cents to US$57.74 as the bank said quarterly net income came in at $5.3 billion, down from $5.7 billion a year earlier. Ex-items, earnings per share were $1.40 versus the $1.35 that analysts had forecast.

Revenue fell one per cent to $24.1 billion, just above analysts’ expectations of $23.9 billion.

Wells Fargo turned in fourth-quarter earnings of $1 per share, two cents better than analysts had forecast. Revenue came in at $20.7 billion, better than the $20.69 billion that had been expected. Its shares, which have run up sharply over the last quarter, were up three cents at $45.59.

In Canada, Corus Entertainment Inc. (TSX:CJR.B) posted adjusted net income of C$55.2 million, or 65 cents a share, three cents higher than estimates. Revenue was $226 million, up from $209 million a year earlier and just short of estimates. Corus also said it was raising its dividend seven per cent and its shares jumped 81 cents to $25.40.

Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B) reports it had $245 million of quarterly net income, or 51 cents per share. That’s up from $235 million or 50 cents per share a year earlier and two cents above analyst estimates. Shaw’s revenue rose 3.3 per cent to $1.36 billion, beating estimates of $1.36 billion but its shares fell 43 cents to $24.88 as RBC Capital Markets noted that employee bonuses and programming costs weighed on margins.

Most TSX strength came from a 1.6 per cent rise in the base metals sector even as March copper moved down one cent to US$3.34 a pound. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch upgraded Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) from underperform to buy and its stock jumped 19 per cent to C$2.82. Elsewhere in the sector, Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ improved by 22 cents to $3.83.

The telecom sector advanced 0.9 per cent as bidding for a coveted piece of Canada’s wireless market started today. The 700 megahertz waves are particularly valuable because they allow cellphone signals to travel longer distances and penetrate buildings and tunnels where calls are often dropped. Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) was the strongest performer in the group, ahead 82 cents at $47.86.

The energy sector moved ahead 0.3 per cent while the February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 79 cents to US$92.59 a barrel. Athabasca Oil (TSX:ATH) gained 13 cents to C$6.92.

The gold sector was the major TSX drag, down 0.25 per cent as February bullion drifted down $5.70 to US$1,245.40 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) faded 70 cents to C$24.34.

Financials also weighed on the Toronto market as Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) fell 59 cents to $63.68.

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