The Toronto stock market was slightly higher Friday amid data showing another month of strong job creation in Canada.
The S&P/TSX composite index edged up 37.13 points to 11,773.3 led by gains in industrial and financial stocks.
The Canadian dollar was up 0.55 of a cent to 100.38 cents (U.S.) after Statistics Canada reported that the economy cranked out 58,200 jobs, much higher than the 10,000 that economists had expected. The strong showing followed job growth in March of 82,000.
Still, the jobless rate edged up 0.1 of a percentage point to 7.3 per cent as more people were looking for work.
The strong employment showing suggested that the Bank of Canada may move sooner than previously expected to hike interest rates. The currency had earlier traded lower as traders shunned risk and sought the safety of U.S. Treasuries.
The TSX Venture Exchange lost 7.22 points to 1,348.08.
Even a mildly positive session would still cap a week of steady losses that are partly a result of political chaos in Greece following inconclusive elections last Sunday that produced no clear winner and so far have led to unsuccessful negotiations to form a government.
New York markets were higher amid a shock announcement from JPMorgan that it lost $2-billion (U.S.) in the past six weeks in a trading portfolio designed to hedge against risks the company takes with its own money. The company’s stock plunged 7.6 per cent.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 51.62 points to 12,906.66.
The Nasdaq composite index climbed 21.75 points to 2,955.39 and the S&P 500 index was up 6.08 points to 1,360.73.
Blue chips helped provide lift to the TSX as the financial sector rose 0.65 per cent. National Bank gained 75 cents to $74.06 and Sun Life Financial ran ahead 90 cents to $23.45.
Industrial stocks also advanced with Canadian National Railways ahead 84 cents to $81.65.
TSX commodity stocks recovered from early sharp losses that followed the release of data showing growth in the Chinese economy slowing faster than previously believed.
Data released Friday showed that industrial production rose 9.3 per cent from a year earlier in April, slowing from a nearly 12 per cent increase in March.
Another report showed inflation also eased, to 3.4 per cent in April from 3.6 per cent the month before, giving the government greater leeway to ease policy to boost growth.
China’s economy grew 8.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year, a still robust rate but its slowest pace since 2009.
“Inflation has now been below four per cent for three months in a row,” said Gavin Graham, president of Gavin Investment Strategy.
“So once there is some confidence on their part that that’s a sustainable slowdown and that the most important thing, which is social stability, is not being threatened by too rapid increases in . . .prices (particularly food), then you might see they flick the switch and go back to starting to allow growth to accelerate.”
The energy sector turned positive, up 0.4 per cent while commodities backed off following the release of the Chinese data with the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 21 cents to $96.87 (U.S.) a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources gained 24 cents to $31.39 (Canadian).
Metal prices also retreated with July copper off four cents to $3.65 (U.S.) a pound. China is the world’s biggest consumer of the metal which is viewed as an economic barometer as it is used in so many different industries. The base metals sector was ahead 0.17 per cent Ivanhoe Mines declined 37 cents to $9.62 (Canadian) while Inmet Mining rose $1.18 to $47.07.
Bullion prices also faded with the June contract in New York down $7.10 to $1,588.40 (U.S.) an ounce. The sector lost 0.55 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. gave back 20 cents to $37.61 (Canadian).
The resource-heavy TSX is set for a second-straight weekly loss with energy and metal stocks continuing to lose ground on worries that the global economy is downshifting and eroding demand for commodities. The disappointing Chinese data follows a major disappointment in April U.S. job creation figures and weak manufacturing data from China and Europe.
“We just had the best couple of months for Canadian job numbers in 30 years, and really strong earnings numbers across most sectors,” said Graham.
“Everything that isn’t Europe-related is doing very nicely, thank you, and the markets don’t care.”
Euro zone worries also weighed on markets Friday.
Another general election is expected in Greece for next month following the failure of attempts to forge a government since Sunday’s poll.
European bourses were negative as London’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.05 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX gained 0.17 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 declined 0.55 per cent.
In earnings news, TMX Group Inc. reported a 10 per cent drop in first-quarter net profits to $56.8-million Friday as the operator of Canada’s major financial markets saw a decline in quarterly revenues. Its shares were unchanged at $47.25 (U.S.).