The Toronto stock market was little changed Wednesday as commodity prices retraced some of the strong gains from the previous session while the market found some lift from the retail sector.
The S&P/TSX composite index was off 3.53 points to 12,133.41 while the TSX Venture Exchange lost 3.77 points to 1,418.52.
Shares in Canada's largest convenience store chain, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., (TSX:ATD.B), surged $3.69 or 10.76 per cent to $37.99 as the company said it was buying a Scandinavian convenience and fuel retailer for $2.8-billion. Statoil Fuel & Retail is the top Scandinavian convenience and fuel retailer with about 2,300 full-service or automated stations.
And Illinois-based SXC Health Solutions Corp. (TSX:SXC) is paying US$4.4-billion worth of cash and stock to acquire Catalyst Health Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHSI) in a friendly deal between the two payment processors. SXC's headquarters is in Lisle, Ill., but it has multiple locations in the United States and Canada. SXC shares ran ahead $6.28 or 7.89 per cent to $85.91.
The Canadian dollar was up 0.12 of a cent to 101.11 cents (U.S.) following a surge of just under a cent Tuesday after the Bank of Canada left interest rates unchanged at one per cent. But the central bank also hinted that higher rates could be on the way.
U.S. markets also retraced some of Tuesday's strong advances with the Dow Jones industrial index down 50.55 points to 13,064.99.
The Nasdaq composite index fell 6.39 points to 3,036.43, and the S&P 500 index lost 3.93 points to 1,386.85.
Stock markets ran up sharply Tuesday in the wake of a successful Spanish bond auction and strong corporate earnings.
The Dow surged 194 points and the main Toronto index gained 99 points.
After the close, tech giants Intel, IBM and Yahoo all handed in results that beat earnings expectations.
However, expectations for this earnings season have been ratcheted down much lower after three years of strong, double digit gains.
“Analyst expectations had been lowered, and they were for less in the way of profitability this year,” said Chris Kuflik, investment adviser with ScotiaMcLeod in Montreal.
“So far, the beat rate has been good but the bar has been set very, very low.”
Easing concerns about the European debt crisis and corporate earnings also boosted commodity prices across the board Tuesday.
The base metals sector was up 0.6 per cent even as copper prices dipped two cents to $3.63 (U.S.) a pound, giving up Tuesday's two cent advance. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) rose 64 cents to $37.35.
Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) tightened its grip on Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. (TSX:IVN) under a new agreement and financing deal Wednesday that will see it nominate 11 of the company's 13-member board. Chief executive and founder Robert Friedland has also resigned and stepped down from the board. Ivanhoe Mines (TSX:IVN) ran ahead $1.22 or 10.5 per cent to $12.85.
The financial sector also provided lift, up 0.65 per cent while TD Bank (TSX:TD) gained 63 cents to $84.19.
Tech stocks led decliners with Celestica Inc. (TSX:CLS) down 20 cents to $8.68 while Research In Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) lost 24 cents to $13.06.
The gold sector was down 0.64 per cent as bullion declined $4.30 to $1,646.80 (U.S.) an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded 55 cents to $40.79.
The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped 74 cents to $103.46 (U.S.) a barrel, taking the energy sector down 0.25 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) gave back 46 cents to $32.19.
Relief about Europe could be short-lived as Spain holds another auction Thursday to sell longer-term debt.
If it goes badly, investors will likely fret once again about the country's ability to get a handle on its debts.
Spain has become the main source of concern in Europe's debt crisis as investors worry about the government's ability to push through a raft of austerity measures at a time when the economy is in recession.
The yield on the country's 10-year bond on Monday spiked above six per cent, not far off the seven per cent rate that eventually forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal into seeking financial help from their partners in the euro zone.
In the past two days, however, it has edged back down to more manageable levels.
There was also a warning about slowing growth in Europe from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF said European banks are under pressure to preserve capital and could cut back sharply on lending over the next two years. The global lending organization says the decline in credit is a big reason Europe's economy is expected to suffer a mild recession this year and barely grow in 2013.
In other corporate news, grocer Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU) said second-quarter profit rose to $96.1-million or 94 cents per share, up 12 per cent from a year ago and two cents better than expectations. Sales improved four per cent to about $2.65-billion. Its shares were ahead 49 cents to $54.09.
European markets also stepped back from solid gains on Tuesday with London's FTSE 100 index eased 0.21 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX lost 0.44 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 declined 1.24 per cent.