Markets close higher as Dow registers third straight week of gains

TORONTO – North American markets capped off a mostly positive week higher Friday despite slightly disappointing job figures from Statistics Canada and a continuing retreat in commodity prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 45.19 points to 12,589.09. The Canadian dollar lost 0.37 of a cent to 98.89 cents US.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials index jumped 35.87 points to 15,118.49, closing out its third straight week of gains. It is up one per cent for the week and 15 per cent for the year.

The Nasdaq climbed 27.41 points to 3,436.58. The S&P 500 gained 7.02 points to 1,633.69.

Statistics Canada reported that the unemployment rate was unchanged for April at 7.2 per cent, as the economy added 12,500 new jobs.

The pickup last month helped take the sting out of March’s massive 54,500 contraction, but was not enough to put job creation on the positive side of the ledger for 2013 as a whole. Analysts had expected an addition of 15,000 jobs.

But the report was better in the details, as there were 36,000 full-time workers added in April, although most of those were in the public sector. The month saw a loss of 23,600 part-time jobs.

The figures weren’t a significant miss, but Kevin Headland of Manulife Asset Management says they may signal a downward trend for the Canadian economy.

“If we start seeing continuously negative numbers come out on a trend basis in Canada, that’s a big overall risk to the Canadian economy,” said Headland, director of Manulife’s portfolio advisory group.

“When you think about the over-indebted consumer… the risk of the housing market, and if jobs creep in, and start becoming a risk, people will be less likely to spend when they’re worried about losing their jobs.”

Meanwhile, the decline in commodity prices continued.

The June crude oil contract declined 35 cents to US$96.04 a barrel, June gold bullion fell $32 to US$1,436.60 an ounce and July copper was up a penny at US$3.35 a pound.

The TSX was mainly positive, with the metals and mining sector as the main advancer getting ahead at 1.13 per cent.

In corporate news, shares in automobile parts giant Magna International (TSX:MG) closed up nearly four per cent after it reported an increase in first-quarter net earnings and revenue despite a meagre increase in vehicle production in North America and a downturn in Europe.

Magna said net profits attributable to shareholders rose to US$369 million or $1.57 per diluted share, up from US$343 million or $1.46 per share. Revenue improved to US$8.36 billion, up from US$7.67 billion. Its stock was up $2.25 to $65.46.

In the U.S., Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said in a speech that the Fed has broadened its oversight beyond banks and now monitors a wide range of financial institutions that could hasten another financial crisis. Bernanke said the country is still suffering from the effects of the 2008 crisis and economic downturn.

Overseas, G7 finance ministers and central bankers also began a two-day meeting in the U.K., which Bernanke did not attend. The bankers were expected to discuss monetary policy and how to shore up the global recovery just as the stimulus policy of one its members, Japan, has caused the yen to extend its slide against the U.S. dollar.