TORONTO – A surprisingly strong reading on U.S. consumer confidence helped underpin a modest gain on the Toronto stock market Tuesday.
The S&P/TSX composite index pulled back from session highs as gold stocks turned negative, but was still up 54.14 points at the close to 12,750.52 as traders also reacted to an earnings report from Scotiabank that missed expectations.
The Conference Board’s U.S. consumer confidence index blew past expectations, coming in at a five-year high of 76.2 against the 72.3 reading that economists had expected. The April reading was 68.1.
Scotiabank’s (TSX:BNS) adjusted earnings came in at $1.24 per share, two cents short of analyst estimates, but its overall net income rose to $1.6 billion from $1.46 billion a year earlier. The net profit amounted to $1.23 per share, up from $1.15 per share a year earlier.
However, market disappointment was short-lived as Scotiabank shares closed unchanged at $59.61 after earlier losing about one per cent.
“The results were a little bit disappointing but nothing material, nothing that’s out of the ordinary for normal course quarterly behaviour,” said Kash Pashootan, vice-president and portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory, a Raymond James company.
He said the market is moving more towards a wait-and-see attitude regarding the banks, reflecting concerns about lower domestic loan growth as the Canadian real estate sector softens.
“For example, you look at TD Bank results and you saw that in Canada, year over year for this year, loan growth in Canada grew by five per cent,” he said.
“So it’s still growing but that momentum at which it’s growing has slowed, compared to the U.S. where it’s growing at 15 per cent.”
The Canadian dollar was off 0.54 a cent to 96.2 cents US as the greenback picked up strength following the release of the consumer confidence report and other data showing rising house prices.
Traders also looked to the Bank of Canada’s next interest rate announcement, scheduled for Wednesday morning. The central bank is widely expected to keep its key rate unchanged for some time to come.
U.S. indexes were sharply higher but also well off the highest levels of the session. The Dow Jones industrials jumped 106.29 points to 15,409.39 after running up as much as 218 points in the morning. The Nasdaq composite index gained 29.74 points to 3,488.89 while the S&P 500 index was ahead 10.46 points to 1,660.06.
CIBC World Markets senior economist Andrew Grantham said the U.S. consumer confidence index for May was supported by lower gasoline prices, soft inflation as well as rising home prices — which offset tax increases in January.
“A firmer labour market may have also played a role, with almost 11 per cent saying jobs were plentiful (up from 9.7 per cent) and the labour differential improving,” Grantham said.
Confidence also improved in Canada as the Ottawa-based Conference Board of Canada said its index rose 5.1 points to 80.7.
The U.S. data was scrutinized for how it might influence the Fed. There have been jitters on stock markets due to speculation that the U.S. central bank might scale back its aggressive bond-buying program, which is meant to stimulate the economy, due to a recent improvement in some economic indicators.
Traders also took in further good news from the U.S. housing sector. The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index for March rose by 1.12 per cent, higher than the 0.9 per cent pace that had been expected. That translates into a 10.87 per cent year-over-year gain — the first double-digit increase in over six years.
On the TSX, the industrials sector led advancers, up one per cent with Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) ahead $2.55 to $139.40.
The financial sector was up 0.8 per cent as Royal Bank (TSX:RY) gained 84 cents to $64.10 while Bank of Montreal, which reports earnings Wednesday, added 39 cents to $63.70.
Oil and copper prices advanced after being buffeted last week after a survey by HSBC Corp. showed a decline in China’s manufacturing for May. An official report on factory production in the world’s second-largest economy will be released later in the week.
The July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 86 cents to US$95.01 a barrel and the energy sector was up almost 0.9 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) advanced 46 cents to C$31.58.
The base metals sector gave up early gains to settle slightly lower even as July copper moved two cents higher to US$3.31 a pound. HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) was up 19 cents to C$8.53.
The gold sector fell about 0.7 per cent as the June contract in New York declined $7.70 to US$1,378.90 an ounce. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) faded 18 cents to C$19.88.
There was also acquisition activity as Domtar Corp. (TSX:UFS) said it has signed a deal to buy Associated Hygienic Products, a maker of store brand infant diapers in the United States, from DSG International for $272 million. Domtar shares improved by $1.58 to $72.23.
Telus Corp. has received approval from the Ontario Superior Court for its proposed $380-million acquisition of Mobilicity, a struggling rival that provides cellphone service in several major cities in three provinces. The acquisition has also been approved by Mobilicity’s bondholders, but Industry Minister Christian Paradis is still reviewing the deal. Telus shares slipped a dime to $37.18.
In other earnings news, high-end jewelry company Tiffany says its first-quarter net income rose three per cent to US$83.6 million, or 65 cents per share as sales improved across all regions. Ex-items, earnings were 70 cents per share, well above the 53 cents that analyst expected. Revenue for the New York company known for its blue boxes rose 10 per cent to $895.5 million, topping Wall Street’s $855.7 million estimate and its stock was up 3.95 per cent to US$79.22.