TSX, Wall Street markets decline amid positive U.S. job claims data

TORONTO – North American markets lost some ground Thursday even though the U.S. reported rosier-than-expected unemployment insurance numbers, a sign that the world’s largest economy may be continuing with its recovery.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 41.15 points to 12,543.90.

The Canadian dollar dipped 0.41 of a cent at 99.26 cents US.

The U.S. Department of Labor said jobless claims dropped by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, indicating that there may be more hiring as the number of layoffs return to pre-recession levels. Economists had expected a slight uptick to 358,000.

The department said the four-week average dropped 6,250 to 336,750 — the lowest it’s been since November 2007, one month before the recession began.

Despite the positive news, the optimism wasn’t reflected on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 22.50 points to 15,082.62 after it closed above 15,000 for the first time earlier this week. The Nasdaq dropped 4.10 points to 3,409.17 while the S&P 500 declined 6.02 points to 1,626.67.

Andrew Pyle, a portfolio manager with Scotia McLeod in Peterborough, Ont., said it will be difficult for the markets to maintain record levels, which may explain some of the small clawbacks.

“One of the problems we have right now is that we have U.S. markets at record highs. A lot of optimism has been pumped into this market,” Pyle said.

“Investors are encouraged by the continued onslaught of central bank stimulus, whether it’s from the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan or the European central bank. It is almost gotten to the point now that investors are moving into the equities market because there is less risk — which is a very dangerous perception to have.”

Pyle predicts a major pullback will happen sometime in the summer because current levels are “unsustainable in the short run.”

The markets have been buoyed in recent days by a number of factors, including signs that the U.S. economy is gaining momentum in its recovery and that Europe’s debt crisis may be easing. but with stock markets headed towards mixed territory, it may be a signal that investors are planning on taking a breather from the record-high levels seen earlier this week.

The Toronto Stock Exchange was mostly mixed at the close, with healthcare being largest advancer, ahead 2.15 per cent, as Extendicare Inc. (TSX:EXE) says it plans on separating its Canadian and U.S. businesses due to the complexity of operating on both sides of the border and the changing nature of the operations. Shares in the long-term care provider were up 16 per cent, or 95 cents to $6.88.

The technology sector also got a boost, pushed up by a nearly four per cent shot in share price for BlackBerry amid buzz U.S. business magnate Carl Icahn bought shares in the smartphone maker. BlackBerry shares were up 59 cents to $15.49.

The gold sector was the leading decliner, dropping at 1.37 per cent while real estate declined by more than one per cent as Brookfield Asset Management (TSX:BAM.A) reported its profits in its latest quarter declined from $722 million to $697 million, sending its stocks down nearly two per cent to $38.41.

Commodities also retreated from a day earlier, when oil, gold and copper all closed at prices not seen in more than a month.

The June crude contract declined 23 cents to US$96.39 a barrel. June gold bullion dropped $5.10 to US$1,468.60 an ounce, after having closed up nearly $25 on Wednesday, while July copper was down three cents to US$3.34 a pound.

In corporate news, shares in Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. (TSX:CTC.A) surged more than 11 per cent on news that the national retailer was planning on creating a $3.5-billion real estate investment trust, with an initial public offering later this year. Canadian Tire says it saw a 2.9 per cent increase in first-quarter earnings amid a 1.7 per cent increase in total revenue to $2.48 billion from $2.44 billion in the same 2012 quarter. Canadian Tire stocks rose $8.32 to $82.36.

Meanwhile, Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) closed nearly six per cent higher at $4.47 after it reported a 25 per cent increase in revenue in the first quarter to US$4.3 billion and said its new CSeries airliner remains on schedule. The plane and train builder says net income was down eight cents per share at US$148 million, but up eight cents on an adjusted basis at US$156 million.

Overnight, world markets declined after higher than expected inflation figures were released from China and investors cashed in on some recent gains.

Government figures showed China’s consumer price index rose 2.4 per cent in the year to April, up from 2.1 per cent the previous month and ahead of expectations of a more modest advance of 2.2 per cent.