TSX closes flat amid major corporate developments in energy, tech, health

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed flat Tuesday amid falling gold stocks, but the TSX found support from major corporate developments in the tech, energy and health-care sectors.

The S&P/TSX composite index was unchanged from Monday at 13,361.78.

Shares of Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) were up 62 cents, or 3.34 per cent, to $19.21 after the natural gas giant said it will create a new public company that will focus on southern Alberta. The Calgary-based company also announced a cut in its quarterly dividend to seven cents from 20 cents and that it would slash its workforce by 20 per cent as it struggles with persistently low prices.

Shares in Open Text (TSX:OTC) ran ahead $7.77 , or 10 per cent, to $85.32 as the software company said that it is buying U.S.-based cloud technology provider GXS Group in a cash-and-stock deal valued at approximately $1.17 billion. GXS Group Inc. a will become a subsidiary of Open Text based in Waterloo, Ont.

And in the health sector, Endo Health signed a deal to buy Canadian specialty drug maker Paladin Labs (TSX:PLB) in a cash-and-stock deal worth about C$1.6 billion. Both Endo and Montreal-based Paladin will then be folded into a newly formed Irish holding company. Paladin stock soared $31.59 , or 49.43 per cent, to $95.50.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.37 of a cent at 95.62 cents US.

U.S. indexes were mixed amid a string of economic data coming out during the week, culminating in the latest U.S. employment report.

The Dow Jones industrials was 20.9 points lower at 15,618.22, the Nasdaq added 3.27 points to 3,939.86 and the S&P 500 index lost 4.96 points to 1,762.97.

At mid-morning, the Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing index for October showed higher than expected expansion with a reading of 55.4. Economists had expected the index to come in at 54.

That data, along with third-quarter economic growth figures on Thursday, will go a long way to determining when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to reduce its monetary stimulus.

Traders are, if anything, more uncertain about when the Fed might cut back on those US$85 billion of monthly bond purchases after last week’s central bank meeting left them with the impression that tapering could start as soon as December.

“Certainly we’re more confused than ever in terms of when this tapering is going to start,” said Kash Pashootan, vice-president and portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory, a Raymond James company.

“And I believe that whether it’s December or March, it doesn’t really have a material impact one way or another. It’s just that they don’t know.”

The gold sector led decliners, down about 1.1 per cent as December bullion gave back $6.60 to US$1,308.10 an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) lost 21 cents to C$5.18.

The TSX base metals sector was up 0.4 per cent with December copper up a cent at US$3.26 a pound.

Silver Wheaton Corp. (TSX:SLW) has signed a deal to acquire half of the gold produced by Hudbay Minerals Inc. at the Constancia mining project, currently under construction in southern Peru. Silver Wheaton slipped 30 cents to C$23.32 while HudBay (TSX:HBM) shares were ahead 23 cents to $8.83.

The TSX energy sector was flat while December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost $1.25 to a five-month low of US$93.37 a barrel. Oil has fallen about 5.4 per cent since Oct. 28 as data showed greater than expected inventory levels in the U.S.

Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) lost 22 cents to C$12.82.

Traders are also absorbing a run of corporate earnings reports this week.

On Tuesday, WestJet Airlines Ltd. (TSX:WJA) said net income in the third quarter was $65.1 million or 50 cents a share, a decline of 7.8 per cent from the same time last year but two cents better than expected. Total revenue grew to $924.8 million from $866.5 million a year earlier, an increase of 6.7 per cent and its shares climbed 20 cents to $27.50.

Meanwhile, traders also looked to the monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank. Until last week’s news that the annual inflation rate in the 17-country eurozone fell to just 0.7 per cent in October, no change in policy was expected. Now, many economists think the ECB will either reduce its main interest rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent or hint at future easing.