Financials help lead the way to solid gains on Toronto stock market

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed higher Tuesday, building on the strong gains racked up so far this month amid a stream of earnings reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 68.77 points to 13,440.61 leaving the market up 5.1 per cent for the month.

The TSX has risen for the past four weeks amid positive earnings news and growing confidence about steady economic growth in Europe and China.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.23 of a cent at 95.51 cents US.

U.S. indexes were higher as the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policymakers began a scheduled, two-day interest rate meeting.

Traders are particularly interested in the Fed’s wrap-up announcement and will look for hints as to when the U.S. central bank might start to cut back on its monthly purchase of US$85 billion of bonds.

Two key U.S. indexes finished at fresh, record highs. The Dow Jones industrials ran ahead 111.42 points to 15,680.35 while the S&P 500 index gained 9.84 points to 1,771.95.

The Nasdaq was up 12.21 points to 3,952.34 amid another technical problem with the exchange. Nasdaq indexes weren’t updated for about 40 minutes starting shortly before noon EDT because of a technical problem. Trading of Nasdaq-listed stocks wasn’t affected, the exchange said.

Markets had previously expected the Fed to begin withdrawing stimulus this year but after the Fed took a pass on tapering last month, expectations have shifted to next year as the pace of improvement in the U.S. economy faded.

“In hindsight, it was the right move because they had foreseen the political events and saw the run up in bond yields when they talked about tapering, said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at 3MACS Inc.

Also, economists are still trying to gauge the cost of the political wrangling earlier this month that resulted in a partial shutdown of the U.S. government.

Traders also took in a soft reading on retail sales for September.

Overall, retail sales dipped 0.1 per cent in the weakest showing since March. But excluding autos, sales rose 0.5 per cent in September, up from 0.2 per cent in August.

On the earnings front, Apple shares were down 2.5 per cent to US$516.68 after reporting after the close Monday that quarterly earnings came in at US$7.5 billion, or $8.26 per share, during the quarter, down from $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per share, last year. That beat expectations of $7.92 per share while revenue rose four per cent to $37.5 billion, again topping expectations.

But Apple’s earnings have now fallen from the previous year in three consecutive quarters after a decade of steady growth.

Industrials led the pack on the TSX, up 1.2 per cent with the two big railroads continuing to benefit from strong earnings reports last week. Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) rose $2.71 to a new 52-week high of $150.88 while Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) climbed $1.06 to $115.09.

The financials sector continued to build on the strong gains of this month, up one per cent Tuesday. The sector is up over five per cent for this month alone, helped along by fewer worries about the health of the Canadian real estate market.

“This housing market that people thought was going to collapse, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon,” added Nakamoto.

TD Bank (TSX:TD) climbed 96 cents to $95.15 while Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) advanced 33 cents to $18.32.

The consumer discretionary segment was also up about one per cent as information giant Thomson Reuters Inc. (TSX:TRI) said that it is cutting about 3,000 jobs as part of its plan to speed up its cost cuts. The company is also recording US$350 million of accounting items related to a restructuring and reported adjusted earnings 48 cents per share. Its shares advanced $1.26 or 3.38 per cent to $38.58 after hitting a fresh 52-week high of $38.60.

Commodities were mixed with the December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 48 cents to US$98.20 a barrel. The energy sector gained per cent while Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) improved by 92 cents to C$33.61.

The gold sector led declines, down 2.74 per cent while December bullion shed $6.70 to US$1,345.50 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) faded 83 cents to C$27.48 while Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) moved 44 cents lower to $20.71.

The base metals segment was down 0.44 per cent while December copper rose one cent to US$3.29 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) shed 59 cents to C$18.77 a day before the miner releases quarterly earnings.

Investors also digested a major real estate deal involving Sears Canada (TSX:SCC). The retailer will get $400 million from its landlords for vacating five department stores by the end of February, including its flagship location in Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Sears shares gained 81 cents or 5.98 per cent to $14.35.