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Air Canada travellers wait at the check-in area in Montreal in this file photo (OLIVIER JEAN/REUTERS)
Air Canada travellers wait at the check-in area in Montreal in this file photo (OLIVIER JEAN/REUTERS)

At noon: TSX clings to losses, but Air Canada shares soar 23% Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was down near midday on Wednesday as questions percolate over the timing of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s removal of monetary stimulus by tapering off its current bond-buying program.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 52.30 points to 12,417.02.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.4 of a cent to 95.98 cents US.

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Comments from Federal Reserve officials have been in focus over the past day after two regional presidents said that the central bank could make its moves to slow stimulus in the shorter term, though the exact timing was left to interpretation.

The Fed won’t make an official statement until next month, which has put extra weight on more off-the-cuff remarks.

Wall Street extended its declines into a third session this week, with the Dow down 71.02 points to 15,447.72, the Nasdaq fell 24.46 points to 3,641.31 and the S&P 500 was down 9.61 points to 1,687.76.

The Federal Reserve is expected to report that consumers increased their borrowing in June. The central bank report is due at 3 p.m. ET.

In commodities, December bullion gained $2.30 to $1,284.80 an ounce.

The September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange moved down 49 cents to $104.81 a barrel.

Shares of Athabasca Oil (TSX:ATH) were up nearly 12 per cent after the Alberta Energy Regulator signed off Tuesday on the Dover oilsands project. The move green-lights the Brion Energy Corp. to begin construction, subject to 10 conditions related to the operations of the project.

The Dover project was initially opposed by the First Nations on the Fort McKay reserve lands, but the regulator said that the project would have little impact on the band. Athabasca gained 88 cents to $8.25.

Meanwhile, in earnings, Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) shares rose 23 per cent in early trading after the carrier came in far ahead of analyst predictions with adjusted net income of $115-million in the second quarter. The results marked a big improvement from a year earlier when it reported an adjusted net loss of $7-million. The company’s stock was up 49 cents to $2.61.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (TSX:VRX) is boosting its guidance for the year after turning out a $11-million profit from a loss in the same period a year earlier. Sales were up nearly 34 per cent to $1.1-billion. Valeant shares increased 86 cents to $100.44.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1.1 per cent at 6,534 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.5 per cent to 8,259. The CAC-40 in France was 0.2 per cent higher at 4,041.

Earlier in Asia, the Nikkei’s retreat hit sentiment across the region. South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.5 per cent to 1,878.33 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.9 per cent to 5,011.30. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 1.5 per cent down at 21,588.84 in the absence of fresh buying incentives.

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