Toronto stock market rises, New York tepid as markets reopen after 2-day closure

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed higher Wednesday in a fifth day of advances, led by rising mining stocks as commodity prices gained ground.

But New York indexes were weak as markets reopened for business after superstorm Sandy forced a two-day shutdown of U.S. financial markets.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 45.86 points to 12,422.91.

The TSX Venture Exchange was 11.56 points higher to 1,314.48.

The Dow Jones industrials had found early support from the latest earnings report from General Motors Corp. and from a bounce at home improvement giant Home Depot, but ended the session down 10.75 points to 13,096.46.

The Nasdaq dropped 10.72 points to 2,977.23, weighed by a 3.8 per cent drop in Facebook shares as the post-IPO lockup on about 229 million shares expired, making them available to the open market. The S&P 500 index inched up 0.22 of a point to 1,412.16.

Analysts pointed out that the New York markets had little to react to over the past couple of days with no major economic reports, while many companies postponed the release of earnings reports.

“I would expect the markets really to take their lead from tomorrow and the following days as we get more economic data and more earnings releases,” said Jeff Bradacs, portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

He pointed out that traders are looking to the latest reading on the Chinese manufacturing sector Wednesday night and the U.S. non-farm payrolls report for October, which comes out Friday.

“Really the key is actually the next couple of days.”

Traders also looked ahead to a U.S. election Tuesday that is too close to call and the approaching fiscal cliff.

The Canadian dollar registered a minor gain as the latest reading on economic growth missed expectations.

The loonie was up 0.03 of a cent to 100.1 cents US after Statistics Canada reported that gross domestic product edged down 0.1 per cent in August, the first monthly decline since February 2012. A 0.2 per cent rise had been expected.

GM shares rose $2.25 or 9.66 per cent to US$25.53 as its third-quarter profit fell 12 per cent to US$1.5 billion or 89 cents a share as losses grew in Europe and North American warranty costs cut into earnings. Excluding one-time items, GM made 93 cents per share, easily beating Wall Street expectations of 60 cents. Revenue grew 2.5 per cent to $37.6 billion.

Home Depot stock was ahead 2.23 per cent to US$61.38 on the expectation of higher profits as hundreds of thousands of people get set to repair their homes. Experts expect damage from Sandy to total around US$20 billion, about half of that insured.

CME Group’s Nymex headquarters and trading floor was also open on Wednesday and trading was being conducted on normal hours.

The gold sector was the biggest percentage advancer, up about 1.7 per cent as December bullion climbed $7 to US$1,719.10 an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) improved by 37 cents to C$15.50 while Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) ran up 68 cents to $11.33.

Tech stocks rose with Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) ahead 28 cents or 3.68 per cent to $7.88 after it said its new BlackBerry smartphones are being tested by 50 phone carriers around the world, another step towards their release next year.

The TSX base metals sector rose almost one per cent as December copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained one cent to US$3.52 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) rose 50 cents to C$31.70.

Sherritt International Corp. shares fell 16 cents to $4.32 as the miner swung to a $22.6-million loss in the third quarter on $42.8 million of net charges. Revenues fell nine per cent to $422.2 million due to lower nickel prices and volumes and lower exports of thermal coal, partially offset by higher fertilizer revenues and the impact of a weaker Canadian dollar.

Financials also provided lift to the TSX with Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) up seven cents to $12.34.

Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) announced Wednesday that the head of its international operations, Brian Porter, has been promoted to president of the bank. Porter takes over those duties from Rick Waugh, who continues his role as chief executive officer and Scotiabank shares were up 11 cents at $54.25.

Most TSX sectors advanced but the energy sector was down 0.21 per cent as December crude contract rose 56 cents to US$86.24 a barrel. Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) lost 56 cents to $44.19.

In Canadian earnings news, Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B), the Toronto-based publisher of newspapers, books and digital content, said third-quarter net income fell to $14.1 million, or 18 cents per share, from $25.2 million or 32 cents per share a year earlier. Ex-items earnings fell to 29 cents per share from 37 cents per share. Revenue was $355.3 million, down from $378.7 million a year before and its shares declined 55 cents to $8.05.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX:MFI) net earnings dropped to $32.6 million, from $43 million in the third quarter of 2011. Revenue slipped to just under $1.24 billion from just over $1.26 billion. Earnings per share before adjustments were 22 cents and 29 cents per share after adjustments in the three months ended Sept. 30, both below estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters and its shares slipped three cents to $11.10.

There was also major merger and acquisition news to digest.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX:POT), the world’s largest fertilizer producer by market value, has confirmed there have been talks to increase its ownership stake with Israel Chemicals Ltd. Potash Corp. already owns 13.84 per cent of the company. The Canadian company sought to increase its stake in ICL earlier this year to 25 per cent, but dropped its attempt in the summer after delays in the government review process. Potash shares were up 18 cents to $40.15.