North American stocks rose at the start of trading on Friday, after investors breathed sighs of relief over a better-than-expected reading for U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter and an upbeat earnings report from Exxon Mobil Corp.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 8184. Exxon rose 1.6 per cent after it reported earnings of $7.8-billion (U.S.) in the fourth quarter, down from $11.7-billion last year. The most uplifting news here is that the oil producer announced that it would boost its capital spending by about 20 per cent in 2009 to expand its production base, even as competitors slash their own capital spending.
At the same time, Procter & Gamble reported that its quarterly earnings jumped 53 per cent over last year - but the results were helped out by the sale of the company's coffee division, Folgers, during the quarter. For the upcoming quarter, P&G said that it was comfortable with analysts' earnings expectations. The shares fell 2.9 per cent.
The S&P/TSX composite index rose 104 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 8867 - thanks mostly to commodity producers. Among energy stocks, Suncor Energy Inc. rose 1.6 per cent and EnCana Corp. rose 1.7 per cent after the price of crude oil rose to $43.26 (U.S.) a barrel, up $1.82.
Among gold producers, Barrick Gold Corp. rose 2.4 per cent and Goldcorp Inc. rose 1.7 per cent, with gold up sharply, to $923 an ounce, up nearly $17.
The banks, however, were down. Royal Bank of Canada fell 0.6 per cent and Toronto-Dominion Bank slipped 0.5 per cent.