U.S. stock markets opened higher, but the TSX was struggling to stay out of the red given renewed weakness in gold prices this morning.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up about 1 point, or 0.01 per cent, at 12,696; the S&P 500 was up 7 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 1,569; and the Dow Jones industrial average was up 59 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 14,631. The Dow had hit an intraday high of 14,640.39 - its highest level ever.
The June gold futures contract in New York was down $18, or 1.1 per cent, at 1,582.80 (U.S.) per ounce, as selling pressure intensified from overnight. The selloff was largely based on technicals, although some firmness in the U.S. dollar was also hurting the price of bullion. Barrick Gold was down about 1 per cent and Kinross Gold 2 per cent. Silver futures were off 1.4 per cent.
Aside from the metals and commodities sectors, market sentiment is much improved today from Monday. Even European markets, still on shaky ground given last month's development in Cyprus, are generally up more than 1 per cent this morning.
That comes despite some rather unattractive data earlier this morning. The euro zone unemployment rate was unchanged at 12 per cent in February from January; the numbers in Greece and Spain were particularly dismal, with the jobless rates in both nations both near 26 per cent. Meanwhile, a final purchasing managers' index for the euro zone dropped to a three-month low of 46.8 from 47.9 in February, signifying continued contraction in the factory sector.
In the U.S., factory orders for February rose 3 per cent, matching economists' expectations. And auto sales released so far today have been upbeat: Ford said sales rose 5.7 per cent in March from a year ago, while Chrysler Group said U.S. sales rose 5 per cent to their highest level since December 2007. Edmunds.com, which follows the industry closely, this morning raised its 2013 auto sales forecast to 15.5 million new cars. Ford shares are up 1.2 per cent.
As long as the U.S. economy is continuing to show signs of improvement, investors are betting that this year's remarkable rally can continue without too much interruption.
Here's a look at some stocks moving on news this morning:
Hewlett-Packard shares are down 5.7 per cent after Goldman Sachs downgraded the computer maker to "sell" from "neutral" and set a $16 price target. Goldman said sentiment for the stock has "moved ahead of reality" given negative trends for desktop PCs.
Apple shares are up 1 per cent despite Goldman Sachs removing the stock from its "conviction buy" list but maintained a "buy" rating.
Research In Motion Ltd. shares are up 1.4 per cent after gaining about 1.7 per cent on Monday amid continued optimism for its new smartphone devices.