TSX declines amid weak U.S. economic data; RIM lower after RIM BB10 launch

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market was lower Wednesday as Research In Motion Ltd. stock fell following the launch of its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 products and data showed a surprising weakening of the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 36.11 points to 12,794.44 while the TSX Venture Exchange was down 9.57 points at 1,222.35.

RIM (TSX:RIM) had been up as much as four per cent before chief executive Thorsten Heins unveiled the BB10 and announced the company’s corporate name would be changed to BlackBerry at a widely covered event in New York City.

But RIM stock closed down $1.85 or 11.78 per cent to $13.86 on very heavy volume of 22.73 million shares.

The stock was hit with a wave of profit taking after hitting a 52-week high of $18.49 early last week. That represented a stunning gain of 203 per cent since hitting a 52-week low of $6.10 last September and at one point was up 50 per cent during January alone.

Analysts said that consumer reaction to the new product will ultimately determine where the stock goes.

“I think it’s too early to all of a sudden, draw any real conclusions to this whole thing,” said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at Scotia Capital.

“It’s going to take some weeks, maybe take some months, until we get a real clear view. Now that it’s going out and people will be able to buy it and use it and express their preferences, likes and dislikes — that’s what will count most.”

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the economy shrank by 0.1 per cent amid a plunge in defence spending and a 5.7 per cent drop in exports that analysts think was linked to hurricane Sandy. The recession in parts of the eurozone also hurt performance. Economists had expected growth of 1.1 per cent in the October-December period.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.09 of a cent to 99.85 cents US.

U.S. indexes seemed unaffected by the scheduled announcement from the U.S. Federal Reserve at the end of its two-day meeting on interest rates.

The Dow Jones industrials closed down 44 points at 13,910.42. The Nasdaq shed 11.35 points to 3,142.31 while the S&P 500 index was off 5.88 points at 1,501.96.

The Fed is keeping its rates near zero. It will also continue with its program of quantitative easing to stimulate the economy as long as the jobless rate stays above 6.5 per cent.

There has been a growing expectation that it may be tempted to reverse its position after minutes from the last meeting in December showed a split among members over how long to continue the stimulus. Some thought the program should be slowed or stopped before the end of 2013.

Investors also digested earnings reports from corporate heavyweights including aircraft maker Boeing Co., which said its fourth-quarter profit fell 30 per cent to $978 million, or $1.28 a share, nine cents better than analysts expected. Boeing said its adjusted 2013 profit estimate of $6.10 to $6.30 a share assumes “no significant financial impact” from a move on Jan. 16 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to ground the 787 Dreamliner pending a probe of its battery problem. Its shares rose 1.28 per cent to US$74.59.

The base metals component lost 0.8 per cent even as March copper on the Nymex gained six cents to US$3.75 a pound. HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) rose 13 cents to C$11.65.

Bloomberg reported that Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-biggest mining company, is considering a temporary halt to construction work at its US$6.2 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project in Mongolia as the government demands a greater share of profit from the mine.

Rio has a 66 per cent stake in Oyu Tolgoi through its 51 per cent interest in Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. (TSX:TRQ), formerly known as Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. Turquoise Hill shares fell 28 cents to $7.87.

The industrials sector fell 0.75 per cent, with Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) down $1.47 to $114.75 after surging Tuesday in the wake of a well-received earnings report.

Telecoms also weighed on the TSX with Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) down 48 cents to $46.57.

Oil prices lost some early momentum after the U.S. economic data was released as the March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange edged up 37 cents to US$97.94 a barrel. But the energy sector was down 0.21 per cent and Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) gave back 21 cents to $33.72.

The gold sector was off about 0.4 per cent as April bullion advanced $18.90 to US$1,6781.60 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) faded 41 cents to C$32.47.

In other earnings news, Montreal-based IT services company CGI Group Inc. (TSX:GIB.A) says its first-quarter revenue more than doubled to $2.53 billion, up 147.5 per cent from a year earlier and its shares gained $2.01 or 8.28 per cent to $26.30.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX:POT) is raising the cash dividend it pays to shareholders by 33 per cent to 28 cents a share. Its shares were up 12 cents to $43.19.

After the close, social network company Facebook turned in earnings per share of 17 cents, two cents better than estimates. Revenue came in at $1.59 billion, better than the $1.53 billion analysts had expected. But its shares fell eight per cent in after market trading in New York.