TSX closes lower amid falling commodities, rising European concerns

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed lower Monday as another round of worry centred on the eurozone encouraged investors to take some profits from last month’s strong gains.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 51.2 points to 12,717.62 while the TSX Venture Exchange was 12.16 points lower at 1,216.5.

The Canadian dollar lost 0.13 of a cent to 100.14 cents US.

Losses were even steeper in New York as U.S. indexes retreated from five-year highs amid data showing durable goods orders for December coming in below expectations.

The Dow Jones industrials was down 129.71 points at 13,880.08, the Nasdaq composite index fell 47.93 points to 3,131.17 and the S&P 500 index declined 17.46 points to 1,495.71.

Factory orders increased 1.8 per cent from November, lower than the 2.5 per cent reading that economists had expected.

And November factory orders were revised down to show a 0.3 per cent decline.

Meanwhile, investors were looking to Europe, where Spain is generating concern as the government is increasingly embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is denying allegations that he and his party received secret cash payments from businesses. The developments sent Spanish yields higher on two- and 10-year bonds by 20 basis points. One basis point is 1/100th of a percentage point.

And in Italy, the upcoming election is proving to be a closer race than many people had thought. There are worries that the next government might dilute the financial reforms put in place by the administration of Mario Monti.

Stocks had finished positive Friday in the wake of a solid U.S. employment report for January and other data showing the manufacturing sector expanding faster than thought, pushing the Dow industrials past 14,000 for the first time in over five years.

But that gain followed a strong January which saw the TSX advance a respectable two per cent while the Dow industrials surged six per cent.

Analysts observed that a pullback after a boost of that size is not surprising.

“Everything is basically setting up for some sort of a correction, or pullback in the month of February,” said Sid Mokhtari, market technician at CIBC World Markets.

“We do have some headwinds here and there which will give the markets some reason to pause given the magnitude of the advances we’ve had. We are in territories when you can envision a very overbought condition.”

Commodity prices had been uniformly lower earlier in the morning amid a strengthening U.S. dollar. But by mid-afternoon, prices were off the worst levels.

The base metals component led decliners, down 1.28 per cent as March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange was two cents lower at US$3.77 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) dropped 49 cents to C$36.51.

Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ) slipped 10 cents to $7.57 after Mongolia’s president said his country should have more control of the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project. Mining giant Rio Tinto has a 66 per cent stake in Oyu Tolgoi through its 51 per cent interest in Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill, formerly known as Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. The development is the world’s biggest copper mine under construction. Mongolia has a 34 per cent stake in the project.

The energy sector fell 0.53 per cent as the March crude contract lost $1.60 to US$96.17 a barrel. Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) gave back 51 cents to C$33.20.

Blue chips were also a drag on the TSX with the financials sector down 0.6 per cent. TD Bank (TSX:TD) dropped 62 cents to $82.96.

The information technology sector was the leading advancer with shares in BlackBerry (TSX:BB) (Nasdaq:BBRY) up $1.98 or 15.22 per cent to $14.99 after Bernstein Research upgraded the stock to outperform and raised the share price target to US$22 from $12. The stock has been volatile in the wake of the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 product lineup. Part of the issue was profit-taking following a huge run-up on anticipation about the new product. But availability has become an issue as U.S. customers won’t be able to get the BlackBerry Z10 until March, a month later than in Canada.

The company’s share symbol changed Monday. However, the legal name of the company is not changing from Research In Motion until shareholders vote for the official change to BlackBerry at the annual general meeting later this year, but the company has already started doing business as BlackBerry.

The gold sector was ahead about 0.2 per cent as April bullion gained $5.80 to US$1,676.40 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) gained 36 cents to C$35.88.

Elsewhere on the corporate front, Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP) has hired away a top executive from Canadian National Railway. Keith Creel is coming on board to be CP’s new president and chief operating officer. Creel had previously been an executive vice-president and the COO at CN (TSX:CN). He will be the second-in-command to CEO Hunter Harrison, who was previously chief executive at CN. CP stock declined $2.24 to $113.54.