The Toronto stock market was higher Thursday amid rising commodity prices and positive U.S. economic data.
The S&P/TSX composite index gained 44.1 points to 12,652.92 while the TSX Venture Exchange dipped 0.73 of a point to 1,229.47.
The Canadian dollar was up 0.07 of a cent to 101.48 cents US.
U.S. indexes rose as weekly applications for unemployment benefits hit a five-year low and U.S. home construction surged last month.
But the Dow industrial average was pressured by earnings disappointments in the banking sector and further Dreamliner woes for aircraft maker Boeing Inc. The blue chip index was up 53.85 points to 13,565.08.
The Nasdaq composite index gained 13.06 points to 3,130.6 and the S&P 500 index rose 5.46 points to 1,478.09.
Builders broke ground on U.S. houses and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000 in December, up 12.1 per cent from November. The report capped off the best year for U.S. home construction since the real estate meltdown.
“There is no denying that the housing market recovery is solidifying, and we expect construction activity to ramp up to the one million annualized threshold by the end of this year,” said TD Bank economist Michael Dolega, adding the improvement in the housing sector is good news for the jobs picture.
“The strengthening housing recovery appears to have shown up in construction employment, which rose 30,000 in December. With sectoral employment down over two million off its 2006-07 peak, we expect the construction sector to add more than half-million jobs over the course of this year.”
Weekly unemployment benefit applications in the U.S. fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000. That’s comparable to numbers seen just after the recession began.
The weekly numbers are subject to a lot of seasonal volatility, but the overall trend suggests an improving landscape.
Boeing shares lost further ground, down 0.9 per cent per cent after American and European authorities grounded the company’s 787 Dreamliner, its newest and most technologically advanced airliner, until the risk of battery fires is resolved. The plane makers stock dropped 3.4 per cent the day before.
Japan’s two largest air carriers voluntarily grounded their 787s on Wednesday following an emergency landing by one of the planes in Japan.
On the earnings front, Bank of America was dragged down by mortgage settlements in the fourth quarter, though it had already warned its shareholders of that. But it fell well short on revenue expectations and shares edged down three per cent.
Citigroup registered a big earnings miss, with earnings per share of 69 cents ex-items against the 96 cents that analysts had expected and its shares were down 2.8 per cent.
The consumer discretionary sector led TSX gainers, paced by strength in auto parts companies. Linamar Corp. (TSX:LNR) gained 69 cents to $26.10 while Magna International (TSX:MG) climbed 86 cents to $53.
The base metals sector was up 0.5 per cent as March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose five cents to US$3.65 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) rose 23 cents to C$21.14.
The chief executive of mining giant Rio Tinto PLC and another senior executive are stepping down after the company announced huge writedowns from its Alcan aluminum business and an acquisition of a coal company in Mozambique.
The company disclosed that it will take an impairment charge of approximately $14-billion in its 2012 results to be published on Feb. 14, including about $3-billion on the acquisition of Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique, and $10-billion or more on the value of Rio’s aluminum assets, primarily Alcan. Its shares were off 11 cents to US$54.92 in New York.
Oil prices headed higher, building on Wednesday’s gain of almost $1 after the U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude supplies declined by one million barrels last week. Analysts polled by Platts expected a 2.5-million-barrel climb.
The February crude contract gained $1.05 to US$95.29 a barrel and the energy gained 0.4 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) advanced 27 cents to C$29.01.
Prices were also supported by an attack on a natural gas plant deep in the Sahara desert in Algeria. Islamist militants are holding dozens of hostages.
The tech sector gained 0.35 per cent with CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) ahead 38 cents to $24.54.
Telecoms were generally higher with BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) up 23 cents to $42.89.
The gold sector was the only TSX decliner, down a slight 0.3 per cent as February bullion erased early losses to gain $3.30 to US$1,686.50 an ounce. Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K) faded eight cents to C$9.41.
Looking ahead to Friday, traders waited for China’s growth data to help assess the strength of the global economy. China will release fourth-quarter growth data for 2012 as well as overall GDP figures for the year.
In other corporate developments, Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF) and the Malaysian state investment company are teaming up to purchase 98 per cent of a Malaysian life insurance company. Sun Life and Khazanah Nasional are purchasing the CIMB Aviva Assurance life insurance company as well as CIMB Aviva Takaful for a total shared cost of $586-million. Sun Life shares gained 28 cents to $28.22.
H&R Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:HR.UN) plans to acquire Primaris Retail REIT (TSX:(PMZ.UN) in a cash and stock deal valued at some $2.8-billion. Primaris owns 35 properties across Canada, including shopping centres in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario comprising some 14.7 million square feet. H&R units lost 47 cents to $23.32 while Primaris units added 18 cents to $26.69.
European bourses were higher as London’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.39 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.49 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 advanced 0.67 per cent.