The Toronto Stock Exchange rebounded slightly Tuesday as traders took in rising commodity prices along with the impact of mixed North American corporate earnings and weak consumer data.
The TSX/S&P composite index added 19.5 points to 12,008.4 after falling 160 points on Monday as investor concerns about the European debt crisis spread around the globe.
Most major indexes on the TSX were in positive territory on Tuesday, with the financial and industrial sectors leading the way.
The junior TSX Venture Exchange was up 1.76 points at 1,372.79.
The June crude oil contract added 63 cents to $103.74 (U.S.) a barrel. Gold prices ran ahead $11.80 to $1,644.40 (U.S.) an ounce and copper prices bounced five cents higher to $3.68 (U.S.) a pound.
The Canadian dollar rose 0.31 of a cent to 101.22 cents (U.S.) even as traders took in data showing weaker than expected February retail sales and declining consumer confidence.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial index was up 111.82 points to 13,038.99, the Nasdaq index added 5.14 points to 2,975.59 and the broader S&P rose 8.47 points to 1,375.41.
Investors are focused on the “push and pull” between earnings that are mostly beating analysts' expectations and a messy macroeconomic situation, said John Stephenson, a portfolio manager at First Asset Investment Management.
While earnings may overshadow the wider drama for a time, the positive impact they could have on stocks is likely fleeting, Stephenson added.
Railway operator Canadian National Railway and high-tech manufacturer Celestica Inc. both reported strong earnings this week, while mining heavyweight Teck Resources saw record revenue, but earnings fall a penny short of analyst expectations.
And big U.S. companies including 3M, Hershey and AT&T posted better than expected profits before the market opened Tuesday.
Apple, the biggest company by market value, reports after the market closes.
“We've had a pretty good beat rate thus far, at least in the U.S., and I wouldn't expect Canada to be too far off the U.S.,” Stephenson said.
But at the same time, he added, analysts have been knocking down expectations as they take in a slowing macroeconomic growth environment.
“With that backdrop, it's hard to see very strong earnings, so I don't think there will be much of a lift to stocks through the week, even in spite of what I think will be a pretty good earnings season.”
Economic data rolling in from consumer sectors in North America on Tuesday were not encouraging.
Statistics Canada said Tuesday that overall retail sales slipped 0.2 per cent to $38.9-billion in February, largely offsetting January's gain. Compared with February 2011, however, last February's retail revenue was up 4.1 per cent.
The report was disappointing to some analysts who had been expecting a month-to-month increase from January, continuing momentum begun early in the year.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board of Canada says its consumer confidence index reversed course in April as Canadians continue to worry about jobs and finances. After three consecutive months of increase, the index fell 4.5 percentage points to 75 in April.
In the United States, a similar report from the New York-based Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 69.2 in April, down slightly from a revised 69.5 in March.
U.S. data also showed home prices dropped in February in most major U.S. cities for a sixth straight month, a sign that modest sales gains haven't been enough to boost prices.
As consumer spending makes up a majority of both the U.S. and Canadian economies, the weaker data is a major weight on trader sentiment, Stephenson said.
“This is one of the big worries, how do you keep the consumer in the game ... without the consumer, how do you appreciably grow beyond two per cent ?” he said.
“It's definitely a headwind and will be a worry and I think you'll start seeing that, as time evolves, those weaker consumer discretionary numbers.”
In Canadian corporate earnings news, mining giant Teck Resources Ltd. said it earned $218-million, or 37 cents per share, in the first quarter. After excluding the impact of debt refinancing and other items, adjusted profit was $504-million or 86 cents per share — a penny short of analyst estimates.
Teck's revenue for the quarter was $2.5-billion, also short of the consensus estimate of $2.6-billion but above the 2011 first quarter revenue of $2.4-billion. Shares added 37 cents to $35.70.
High-tech manufacturer Celestica Inc. says its first-quarter revenue was nearly $1.7-billion (U.S.). Celestica's net income was $43.2-million or 20 cents per share under International Financial Reporting Standards, up from $30-million or 14 cents per share. Shares rose 7.5 per cent or 63 cents to $8.99.
Shares in Canadian National Railway added $1.54 to $80.93 after it boosted its earnings guidance for the year Monday after beating analyst forecasts with first-quarter profits that surged 16 per cent to $775-million or $1.75 per share.
Rival railway Canadian Pacific saw shares rise 78 cents to $74.99 in Tuesday trading, a day after it boosted its dividend to 35 cents from 30 cents amid a fight with its largest shareholder, Pershing Square Capital Management, which is seeking to replace the railway's chief executive.
Canfor Pulp Products Inc. reports first-quarter net income of $10.3-million or 13 cents per diluted share, down from $50.7-million or 71 cents per share in the same 2011 period. Revenue was $220-million, compared with 252.3-million in the prior-year period. Shares fell 10.2 per cent or $1.45 to $12.74.
Investors are also looking to a meeting of U.S. Federal Reserve policy-makers on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the economy and monetary policy. They are hoping there might be some show of support for a third round of bond purchases, dubbed quantitative easing III or QE3, to support the U.S. economy.
Stocks dropped Monday across North America, Europe and Asia as investors absorbed weekend political developments including the collapse of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government in the Netherlands when it could not agree with a key allied party on budget cuts to bring the deficit below the EU-mandated three per cent.
In France, Socialist Francois Hollande led the first round of presidential elections. He has vowed to renegotiate a European treaty tightening rules on debt.
In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.57 per cent, Germany's DAX added 1.09 per cent and France's CAC-40 climbed 2.14 per cent.
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