TSX rises in shortened Christmas Eve session, Sherritt sells coal business

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market ended a shortened trading session higher on Tuesday amid news that one of Canada’s largest coal producers is getting out of that business to focus on metals and energy.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 70.32 points to 13,518.02 in a shortened trading session ahead of the Christmas Day holiday.

The Canadian dollar fell 0.07 of a cent to 94.17 cents US.

The TSX will remain closed for both Christmas and the Boxing Day holiday, reopening on Friday, while Wall Street begins trading again on Thursday.

In the U.S., the Dow jumped 62.94 points to 16,357.55, while the S&P 500 saw an uptick of 5.33 points to 1,833.32, both closing at record-highs for the second day in a row. The Nasdaq climbed 6.51 points to 4,155.42.

Sherritt International Corp. (TSX:S) says it’s selling its entire coal business in Canada to two buyers for a total of $946 million. Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. will buy Sherritt’s mines in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while Altius Minerals of St. John’s, N.L., (TSX:ALS) will buy the company’s coal royalty portfolio and coal development projects. Sherritt’s shares gained nearly 15 per cent to close at $3.88.

Meanwhile, resource-company Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX:CG) says it has reached a non-binding agreement with the Kyrgyz government and Kyrgyzaltyn JSC, a state-owned company.

If completed as announced, the deal will reorganize the ownership of the politically-sensitive Kumtor gold project with the Krygyz state company exchanging its one-third interest in Centerra for 50 per cent of a joint venture that will own Kumtor. Centerra will own the other half and manage the operation. Its shares closed up 19 cents, or nearly five per cent, at $4.16.

Shares in Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) ended the session up three cents, or 0.65 per cent, to $4.62 after it announced it has received a firm an order for 10 Challenger business jets, which have a list price of about US$280 million. Bombardier Aerospace said the customer’s name isn’t being disclosed.

All but one sector on the TSX was higher, with gold taking the spot for the leading advancer, by rising by 3.42 per cent. Gold prices gained $6.30 to US$1,203.30 an ounce.

The metals and mining sector followed closely behind, jumping by 2.94 per cent, as March copper saw an uptick of two six cents to $3.37 a pound.

The energy sector rose by 0.25 per cent, as the February crude contract gained 31 cents to US$99.22 a barrel.

Consumer staples was the only sector to decline in the session, falling by a mere 0.09 per cent.

In economic news, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that businesses stepped up their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in November. And a key category that signals business investment plans climbed at the fastest pace in 10 months.

The surge in orders for durable goods, which are products expected to last at least three years, was the latest evidence of a manufacturing rebound. The gains will likely provide support for the economy into 2014.

Orders for durable goods jumped 3.5 per cent last month compared with October, when they had fallen 0.7 per cent.

But it wasn’t a completely rosy outlook for the American housing market with sales of new homes slipping slightly in November after a big surge in the previous month.

The Commerce Department said sales dipped 2.1 per cent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 464,000. In October, new-home sales had shot up 17.6 per cent, the biggest one-month gain in more two decades. The October annual sales pace of 474,000 was the highest since July 2008. The median price of a new home sold in November rose to $270,900, up 10.6 per cent from a year ago.

Before the big rebound in October, home sales had slowed over the summer. They did so after mortgage rates spiked amid investor concerns about how fast the Federal Reserve would remove its support for the economy.

Earlier, global stocks continued to gain traction on signs that the U.S. is continuing its economic recovery at a better-than-expected pace.

The advance came despite the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision last week to start reducing its monetary stimulus by $10 billion to $75 billion from January. Many had feared the decision to rein in its policy of quantitative easing, or QE, would be negative for stocks as the stimulus has shored up markets over the past few years.

“Earlier fears that the Fed calling time on QE would knock the potential for a classic Santa rally certainly don’t seem to be living up to expectations,” analysts at Monex Capital Markets said.