TSX faces tight trading as fiscal cliff looms, commodity prices mixed

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market shifted lower in early trading on Monday as commodity prices were mixed alongside focus on talks over avoiding the “fiscal cliff.”

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 7.11 points to 12,289.61, while the TSX Venture Exchange climbed 4.67 points to 1,188.29.

The Canadian dollar edged up 0.21 of a cent to 101.58 cents US.

TSX energy stocks we relatively flat as the January crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 25 cents to US$86.96 a barrel.

March copper was down two cents at US$3.66 a pound while February gold bullion dipped 50 cents to US$1,696.50 an ounce.

Budget negotiations inched forward over the weekend as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner reportedly told President Barack Obama that he could be flexible on raising taxes on some wealthy earners in exchange for cuts to popular benefit programs cherished by Democrats.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials gained 52.07 points to 13,187.08, the Nasdaq rose 17.19 points to 2,988.52. The S&P 500 index was off 7.82 points at 1,421.40.

The January crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 43 cents to US$87.16 a barrel. February gold bullion gained 20 cents to US$1,697.20 an ounce.

South of the border, the first of several economic reports related to the housing market was released.

A survey of top business economists released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics showed that most believe that modest growth will be ongoing in 2013, led by rising demand for housing.

Based on the survey, NABE sees economic growth of 2.1 per cent after 2.2 per cent growth in 2012.

In Canada, the real-estate industry’s main association released a revised forecast for 2012 housing resales. The Canadian Real Estate Association now projects 456,300 units will be sold in 2012, half a percentage point below last year’s level. The Canadian national average home price is projected to rise by 0.3 per cent to $363,900 in 2012.

In corporate developments, copper miner Inmet Mining Corp. (TSX:IMN) says it has yet to receive the increased $5.1-billion takeover bid that was announced by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (TSX:FM) on Sunday. Inmet is urging shareholders to withhold taking action until it can evaluate the details. Inmet shares rose five per cent to $3.52.

TSX financial stocks were ahead 0.2 per cent, while Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF) has agreed to sell its U.S. annuity unit and certain life insurance businesses for US$1.35 billion to Delaware Life Holdings, a company owned by shareholders of Guggenheim Partners. Sun Life shares dropped 61 cents to $27.22.

Overseas, Japanese shares outperformed all others on hopes that the new government will soon enact fresh stimulus measures.

The country’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 0.9 per cent to close at 9,828.88, its highest level since April, after the country’s Liberal Democratic party swept back into power with a landslide victory in weekend elections .

Elsewhere in Asia, China’s shares fared fairly well as its new leaders promised more spending if needed to underpin a wobbly economic recovery. Those hopes helped the Shanghai Composite rise 0.4 per cent to 2,160.34 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite index to end 0.4 per cent higher to 819.58.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.4 per cent at 5,897 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.2 per cent to 7,583. The CAC-40 in France was 0.6 per cent lower at 3,620.