TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed little changed Monday with buyers content to sit on the sidelines amid skepticism that an agreement can be reached to avoid the U.S. falling over the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year.
However, the market found some lift from corporate developments in the tech, resource and retail groups.
The S&P/TSX composite index was 5.34 points lower to 12,191.46 while the TSX Venture Exchange gained 4.54 points to 1,305.46.
Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) rose 2.9 per cent to $8.81 as it said it will officially launch the final version of its long-awaited new BlackBerry 10 operating system and smartphone hardware on Jan. 30. The company will also unveil the first two BlackBerry 10 smartphones. But it’s not known when the new devices will be available to consumers.
Leon’s Furniture Ltd. (TSX: LNF) is offering to buy The Brick Ltd. (TSX: BRK) in a deal the company values at $700 million. Leon’s will pay $5.40 per share in either cash or debentures. Brick shares surged 52 per cent to $5.32 while Leon’s shares edged up 23 cents to $11.80.
And Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK) is buying Queenston Mining Inc. (TSX:QMI) in an all-stock deal valued at $550 million. Queenston owns gold properties in the Kirkland Lake gold camp area as well as interests in Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario. Queenston shares jumped 74 cents or 14.8 per cent to $5.75 while Osisko Mining dipped 80 cents or 8.15 per cent to $9.02 on dilution concerns.
The Canadian dollar wasn’t trading in Canada on Monday as banks were closed in observance of Remembrance Day. The currency was up 0.17 of a cent to 100.04 cents US from Friday’s close on international markets in late-afternoon trading.
U.S. markets were also lacklustre as the Dow Jones industrials dipped 0.23 of a point to 12,815.16, the Nasdaq was off 0.62 of a point to 2,904.25 while the S&P 500 index was ahead 0.15 of a point at 1,380.
The fiscal cliff label refers to a string of tax increases and steep spending cuts aimed at reducing the U.S. deficit and are set to automatically kick in at the first of the year.
If they are allowed to take full effect, the cuts and tax increases will total at least half a trillion dollars and take a big chunk out of GDP in 2013. Failure to come up with a compromise would likely tip the U.S. back into recession and drag down other economies with it.
Both Toronto and New York markets racked up sharp losses last week despite comments from the Obama administration and congressional leaders about a willingness to compromise, with the TSX down almost 1 1/2 per cent while the Dow industrials fell just over two per cent.
“Some investors might be scratching their heads saying, ‘this fiscal cliff this isn’t new, we knew it was coming so why did the election all of a sudden unveil some new issue for the market,’ ” said Craig Fehr, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
“Our view is it’s not that the markets are really surprised by this, it’s that the election didn’t do anything to change the status quo in Washington. So any hope the election might have changed the dynamic, changed the narrative, on some of these fiscal issues is now realizing it really didn’t.”
Commodity prices were mixed and the base metals sector was up 0.77 per cent while copper prices benefited from positive news from China, the world’s second-biggest economy and the biggest consumer of the metal, which is viewed as an economic bellwether.
The December contract in New York closed two cents higher at US$3.47 a pound and First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) gained 55 cents to C$22.75 while Inmet Mining (TSX:IMN) gained $2.19 to $57.50.
China’s industrial output rose 9.6 per cent in October, higher than the expected 9.4 per cent gain that economists expected and up from 9.2 per cent in September. And retail sales were up 14.5 per cent for the month from a year earlier.
The financial sector also lifted the TSX as Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF) gained 35 cents to $26.49.
Industrial stocks were also positive as Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) improved by $1 to $91.10.
December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 50 cents to US$85.57 a barrel, and the energy sector was down 0.42 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) dropped 61 cents to $27.87.
The gold sector was off 1.3 per cent as December bullion ended the session unchanged at US$1,730.90 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded 84 cents to $43.44.
Traders also eyed Greece and its efforts top secure a new bailout loan ahead of a bond repayment on Friday that it cannot afford.
The head of the group of finance ministers from the 17 euro countries, Jean-Claude Juncker, said one issue remained unresolved — how much time Greece will be given to reduce its debts to a manageable level.
Juncker said eurozone finance ministers meeting Monday evening in Brussels would discuss whether Greece should be given extra time to cut its debt to 120 per cent of its GDP beyond the original deadline of 2020.