TORONTO – The Toronto Stock Exchange moved back from earlier gains to close lower Tuesday as traders weighed the impact of mixed North American corporate earnings and weak consumer data.
The TSX/S&P composite index lost 8.85 points to 11,980.1, as investor concerns about the European debt crisis extended into another session. The junior TSX Venture Exchange shed 5.26 points to 1,365.77.
Investors are focused on the “push and pull” between earnings that are mostly beating analysts’ expectations and a messy macroeconomic situation, said John Stephenson, a portfolio manager at First Asset Investment Management.
While earnings may overshadow the wider drama for a time, the positive impact they could have on stocks is likely fleeting, Stephenson added.
The June crude oil contract added 44 cents to US$103.55 a barrel, while gold prices ran ahead $11.20 to US$1,643.80 an ounce. Copper prices bounced five cents higher to US$3.67 a pound.
The Canadian dollar rose 0.30 of a cent to 101.21 cents US even as traders took in data showing weaker than expected February retail sales and declining consumer confidence.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial index was up 74.39 points to 13,001.56, the Nasdaq index dropped 8.85 points to 2,961.6 and the broader S&P rose 5.03 points to 1,371.97.
Stephenson said corporate earnings so far have been pretty good.
“We’ve had a pretty good beat rate thus far, at least in the U.S., and I wouldn’t expect Canada to be too far off the U.S.,” Stephenson said.
But at the same time, he added, analysts have been knocking down expectations as they take in a slowing macroeconomic growth environment.
“With that backdrop, it’s hard to see very strong earnings, so I don’t think there will be much of a lift to stocks through the week, even in spite of what I think will be a pretty good earnings season.”
However, economic data rolling in from consumer sectors in North America on Tuesday was not encouraging.
Statistics Canada said retail sales slipped 0.2 per cent to $38.9 billion in February, while, the Conference Board of Canada said its consumer confidence index slipped 4.5 percentage points to stand at 75 in April after three months of increases.
A similar report from the U.S. Conference Board found its consumer confidence index fell to 69.2 in April, down slightly from a revised 69.5 in March.
U.S. data also showed home prices dropped in February in most major U.S. cities for a sixth straight month, a sign that modest sales gains haven’t been enough to boost prices.
As consumer spending makes up a majority of both the U.S. and Canadian economies, the weaker data is a major weight on trader sentiment, Stephenson said.
“This is one of the big worries, how do you keep the consumer in the game … without the consumer, how do you appreciably grow beyond two per cent?” he said.
“It’s definitely a headwind and will be a worry.”
In Canadian corporate news, pulp producer Fibrek (TSX:FBK) said it isn’t giving in to a hostile takeover bid by Resolute Forest Products, which still hasn’t secured a majority of its shares.
The company, formerly known as AbitibiBowater (TSX:ABH), said Tuesday it holds about 48.8 per cent of Fibrek shares after adding 2.66 million as of Monday. Shares in Fibrek were unchanged at 95 cents, while Resolute shares rose a penny to $12.90.
Shares in Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) were up 52 cents at $35.85 as it reported a profit of $218 million, or 37 cents per share. After excluding the impact of debt refinancing and other items, the company earned $504 million or 86 cents per share.
Celestica (TSX:CLS) shares were up 49 cents at $8.77 after it reported first-quarter profit of $43.2 million or 20 cents per share, up from $30 million or 14 cents per share a year ago.
Shares in Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) added $1.85 to $81.24 after it boosted its earnings guidance for the year Monday after beating analyst forecasts with first-quarter profits that surged 16 per cent to $775 million or $1.75 per share.
Meanwhile, rival railway Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP) saw shares rise $1.57 to $75.78 a day after it boosted its dividend to 35 cents from 30 cents amid a fight with its largest shareholder, Pershing Square Capital Management, which is seeking to replace the railway’s chief executive.
After the close of markets, Apple said it earned $11.6 billion, or $12.30 per share, in its latest quarter, nearly double the $6 billion, or $6.40 per share, it earned a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting earnings of $10.07 per share for the quarter.
Meanwhile, Rogers Communications reported a profit of $305 million or 57 cents per diluted share in its latest quarter, down from $335 million or 60 cents per share a year ago. Adjusted for one-time items, Rogers said it earned $356 million in the quarter, down from $423 million in the same quarter last year.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misstated Teck’s revenue.