Mining stocks boosts TSX; Mass. election outcome helps send N.Y. higher

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO - Rising mining stocks pushed the Toronto stock market to a slight gain Tuesday.

Investors also took in news that the Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate at 0.25 per cent while signalling it doesn't plan on raising rates until at least the end of the second quarter.

The S&P/TSX composite index finished 12.88 points higher at 11,763.42 after financials and commodity stocks had pushed the main index up 65 points on Monday when U.S. markets were closed for the Martin Luther King holiday.

Investors were largely taking their cue from a heavy week of U.S. earnings reports.

"And I would expect that will continue to be the case as we're in the midst of a week where we see lots of U.S. earnings reports," said Kate Warne, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are all reporting this week.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.40 of a cent to 97.02 cents US.

The Bank of Canada announcement came out as Statistics Canada said a major indicator of future economic performance moved up in December. The composite leading index gained 1.5 per cent with no contraction in any of the 10 major economic components surveyed. That was much better than the one per cent rise that economists had expected and was the best showing since 1983.

"Now that's pretty incredible," added Warne.

"That doesn't necessarily translate into stronger growth but it should reassure those who might be worrying and particularly since the Bank of Canada edged down its forecast for 2010 growth."

Meanwhile, Kraft Foods Inc.'s agreement to acquire Cadbury PLC for US$18.9 billion boosted hopes that corporate dealmaking will continue to rebound. Investors see buyouts as a sign of confidence in the economy. Kraft shares were down 17 cents to $29.41.

The gold sector rose 1.23 per cent as the February bullion contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed up $9.50 to US$1,140 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) gained 59 cents to $40.91 while Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) advanced 69 cents to $41.60.

The base metals sector gained 0.7 per cent as March copper rose eight cents to US$3.45 a pound. Equinox Minerals (TSX:EQN) was up 10 cents to $4 while Labrador Iron Mines Holdings (TSX:LIM) jumped $1.47 or 26.39 per cent to $7.04.

Shares in FNX Mining Co. Inc. (TSX:FNX) rose 95 cents to $13.64 after it said it had discovered new deposits of nickel, copper and precious metals at its Victoria property near Sudbury, Ont.

The telecom sector was ahead with Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) up 56 cents to $31.81 as its Citytv operation confirmed it is restructuring television operations, cutting newscasts and about 60 jobs in cities across the country. The moves affect operations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.

The TSX energy sector was down slightly as the February crude contract on the Nymex gained $1.02 to US$79.02 a barrel.

Epsilon Energy Ltd. (TSX:EPS) gained 17 cents to $3.17. The Toronto-area company said Monday that it has a deal with Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE:CHK) to co-develop a shale gas property in Pennsylvania.

The TSX financial sector was little change after U.S. bank Citigroup said Tuesday it lost US$7.58 billion in the final three months of 2009. The bank set aside $8.18 billion to cover soured loans during the quarter but earnings at 33 cents a share met analyst expectations. Its stock shook off early losses to move up 12 cents to US$3.54.

In other earnings news, online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. says lower interest rates and higher expenses contributed to a 26 per cent drop in first-quarter profit. The bank reported earnings of $136.2 million, or 23 cents a share, missing analyst expectations by three cents a share. TD Bank (TSX:TD) owns a 45 per cent stake in the brokerage, which also missed on revenue and its shares were off a penny to $64.09.

The TSX Venture Exchange gained 7.14 points to 1,612.86.

Health stocks helped push New York markets higher on hopes that a special election in Massachusetts will take away power from Senate Democrats and make it harder for President Barack Obama to make changes to health care.

New York's Dow Jones industrial average jumped 115.78 points to 10,725.43, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 32.41 points to 2,320.4 ahead of IBM earnings that came out after the market close.

The company reported earnings of US$3.59 a share and revenue of US$27.2 billion - both beat analyst expectations. Its shares closed the session up $2.36 to US$134.14.

The S&P 500 index was ahead 14.2 points to 1,150.23.

The vote Tuesday to fill the seat of late Senator Edward M. Kennedy could shift power in the Senate if Republican Scott Brown wins. The prospect of a logjam in Washington over health care eased concerns that profits at companies like insurers and drug makers would suffer.

Organizations: TSX, Bank of Canada, S&P Bank of America Corp. Wells Fargo & Co. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Statistics Canada Kraft Foods Inc. New York Mercantile Exchange Barrick Gold Goldcorp Inc. TD Ameritrade Holding Equinox Minerals Labrador Iron Mines Holdings FNX Mining Co. Rogers Communications Citytv Nymex Epsilon Energy Ltd. Chesapeake Energy NYSE U.S. bank Citigroup TD Bank Senate Democrats Dow Jones industrial average IBM

Geographic location: New York, TORONTO, U.S. St. Louis Victoria Sudbury Vancouver Edmonton Calgary Pennsylvania Massachusetts Washington

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