TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed little changed Wednesday as investor attention refocused on the U.S. Federal Reserve and whether the central bank will decide to launch another round of economic stimulus to aid a struggling economy.
The S&P/TSX composite index was down from session highs but still ahead 12.17 points to 12,232.62. Markets had earlier reacted enthusiastically after Germany’s high court rejected calls to block the European Union’s permanent rescue fund.
Opponents had challenged Germany’s ratification of the European Stability Mechanism, which is a new, permanent €500 billion bailout fund for the 17 countries that use the euro. They had argued that it violated Germany’s constitution and sought an injunction preventing the country’s president from signing the legislation into law.
Germany’s ratification of the ESM is vital, because the fund cannot work without the participation of the EU powerhouse.
The TSX Venture Exchange rose 8.05 points to 1,282.65.
The Canadian dollar was off 0.35 of a cent to 102.4 cents US. The currency ran up about 1.8 cents since last Wednesday as traders anticipate that last week’s disappointing U.S. jobs data for August have convinced the Federal Reserve that the economy needs another round of economic stimulus.
Such measures could include a third round of quantitative easing, which would see the Fed print more money to buy up bonds in order to keep interest rates low and encourage borrowing.
U.S. markets were lacklustre with buyers cautious ahead of an announcement by the Fed on Thursday at the conclusion of their two-day meeting on interest rates.
The Dow Jones industrials edged up 9.99 points to 13,333.35, the Nasdaq was up 9.78 points to 3,114.31 while the S&P 500 index gained three points to 1,436.56.
Markets could be in for a severe disappointment Thursday. Some analysts believe that the Fed will do nothing more than reassert that it’s willing to do more, especially as a number of its policymakers may be reluctant to do something dramatic in the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign.
“The election coming up in November, it’s going to make them think twice about the political implications of announcing a massive bond-buying program or asset purchase program,” said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds Inc., adding that December would be a better time to launch a massive program of stimulus.
“So I think it’s certainly open, I think they will certainly hint about keeping rates low for an extended period of time, maybe even extend that beyond the 2014 window if that’s possible.”
The base metals sector led TSX gainers, up 0.74 per cent while a rally in copper prices stalled after three sessions with the December contract off about half a cent at US$3.6925 a pound. The metal, viewed as an economic barometer as it is used in so many applications, has run up 18 cents over the last three sessions.
First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) climbed 48 cents to $22.08 while Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) improved by 11 cents to $3.33.
The gold sector was up about 0.6 per cent as the December bullion contract shed $1.20 to US$1,733.70 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) was 89 cents higher at $42.01.
Industrials also provided lift as transport giant Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) gained 13 cents or 3.64 per cent to $3.70.
The telecom sector was also positive as the power struggle between the board of Telus Corp. (TSX:T) and New York hedge fund Mason Capital Management LLC appears headed for an appeal court. Mason says it will appeal a B.C. court decision that blocks it from holding a shareholders meeting for investors with Telus voting stock, a move that rivals the company’s own plans for a meeting of all voting and non-voting shareholders.
Telus and Mason are in a bitter public battle over a plan to eliminate the Canadian telecom company’s dual-class share structure. Mason opposes a Telus plan that would swap non-voting stock for common stock on a one-to-one basis, arguing that doesn’t recognize the greater market value of the voting shares.
Telus voting shares advanced 96 cents to $62.57 while its non-voting A shares gained 99 cents to $62.04.
The energy sector was flat while the price of oil fell after the government said U.S. supplies of oil rose last week. The October crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 16 cents to US$97.01 a barrel.
Analysts had expected that the U.S. Energy Department would report that U.S. crude stockpiles fell by 3.3 million barrels.
Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) was down 22 cents to $31.96.
The consumer staples sector led decliners with shares in convenience store chain Alimentation Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.B) down $1.29 to US$47.59.
In other corporate news, Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL) had a net profit of $49.8 million in its second quarter, up 32 per cent from the comparable period last year. Dollarama’s revenue was up 13.8 per cent, rising to $441 million from $387.5 million for the corresponding period last year. The profit amounted to 66 cents per diluted share, two cents higher than analyst forecasts but its shares fell 33 cents to $58.97.
Facebook shares surged $1.50 or 7.73 per cent to US$20.93 after CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a conference Tuesday that the social network site cares about making money as well as pursuing his mission to make the world a “more open and connected place.”
Facebook stock has lost nearly half its value since its IPO in May. More than $50 billion has been lopped off Facebook’s market value as the company’s shares have fallen from its IPO price of $38.
Apple Inc. shares were up $9.20 or 1.4 per cent to US$669.79 after the tech giant unveiled the iPhone 5. It says it’s thinner and lighter than the previous model, even though it has a bigger screen.