The Toronto stock market was slightly higher as worse-than-expected results from Apple Inc. were tempered amid data showing U.S. economic growth in the third quarter was stronger than expected.
The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 29.21 points to 12,329.44 while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 1.92 points to 1,303.62.
The Canadian dollar was well off the worst levels of the morning, down 0.08 of a cent to 100.53 cents US.
The U.S. economy expanded at a two per cent annual rate during the July-September quarter, with lift provided by higher consumer spending and a burst of government spending.
The showing was better than the 1.8 per cent pace that had been expected and an improvement from the 1.3 per cent pace recorded for the second quarter.
U.S. markets were higher after Apple missed Wall Street earnings expectations for the second straight quarter, as iPad sales fell short of analyst forecasts. Net income in the fiscal fourth quarter was US$8.2 billion, or $8.67 per share. That was up 24 per cent from $6.6 billion, or $7.05 per share, a year ago.
Analysts were expecting earnings of $8.84 per share. Revenue was up 27 per cent from a year ago to $36 billion, against expectations of $35.8 billion. Apple stock was down a slight 0.5 per cent to US$606.36.
The Dow Jones industrials gained 11.21 points to 13,114.89, the Nasdaq composite index ran ahead 10.79 points to 2,996.91 and the S&P 500 index added 1.71 points to 1,414.68.
Amazon also disappointed as the world’s largest online retailer posted a loss of $274 million, or 60 cents per share, in the July-September period, down from earnings of $63 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier.
The results include a loss of 37 cents per share related to Amazon’s minority stake in online deals service company LivingSocial. Without this charge, it still would have lost 23 cents per share, worse than what analysts were expecting. Revenue grew 27 per cent to $13.81 billion, from $10.88 billion, also falling short of analysts’ expectations but its shares gained four per cent to US$231.85.
North American markets headed for a losing week as a string of earnings disappointments from big multinationals over the past week, including McDonald's, General Electric and 3M, have reminded investors of the fragile state of the global economy.
"Corporate earnings reports continue to be an issue," said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Robert Kavcic, "and let’s just say that forward guidance has been uninspiring at best, especially in cyclical sectors such as industrials and materials."
The base metals sector led TSX advancers, up 0.4 per cent as metal prices improved with December copper reversing early losses to gain one cent to US$3.56 a pound. Copper, viewed as an economic barometer, has tumbled almost 20 cents in the past week on worries about a slowing global economy. Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) rose four cents to C$2.76.
The energy sector rose 0.3 per cent while oil prices moved off session lows following the release of the report with the December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 19 cents to US$85.86 a barrel. Still, crude has fallen more than seven per cent this week amid data showing much higher than expected inventories. Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) climbed 50 cents to $34.90.
The gold sector was up 0.2 per cent while December bullion gained $2.70 to US$1,715.70 an ounce.
Eldorado Gold Corp. (TSX:ELD) said its profits attributable to shareholders fell by 26 per cent to US$75.8 million in the third quarter on lower volumes and prices of gold sold. The Vancouver-based gold miner is maintaining its guidance to sell 660,000 ounces of gold at cash operating costs of about US$465 per ounce this year and its shares edged up six cents to C$14.10.
The financial sector was also positive with National Bank (TSX:NA) ahead 30 cents to $76.75.
On Thursday after the close, financial services company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (TSX:FFH) reported that its third-quarter profits plummeted more than 96 per cent to $34.6 million or 90 cents a share as it faced losses on its equity hedges. Its shares were $4.04 lower to $365.73.
Elsewhere on the earnings front, power generator TransAlta Corp. (TSX:TA) said Friday that net income attributable to common shareholders in the third quarter was $56 million or 24 cents per diluted share. That compared with $50 million or 22 cents per share in the same 2011 period. Revenue fell to $538 million from $629 million and its shares gained 17 cents to $15.39 as it also announced it has formed a new strategic partnership with an American company for building power plants in Canada. Under the partnership with MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the two companies will work together to develop, build and operate new natural gas-fired electricity generation projects in Canada.
Swedish wireless equipment maker LM Ericsson posted a 43 per cent plunge in third-quarter net profits as operators have grown more cautious about the economic outlook. The report showed a net profit of 2.18 billion kronor (US$325 million), down sharply from the 3.82 billion kronor recorded in the same quarter a year ago.
Sales dwindled to 54.55 billion kronor from 55.52 billion kronor.
European bourses also came off session lows in the wake of the U.S. data with London's FTSE 100 index off 0.03 per cent. Frankfurt's DAX gained 0.44 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 was up 0.74 per cent.
Earlier in Asia, stocks suffered from the fallout from the Apple and Amazon reports. Downbeat U.S. housing figures also weighed on sentiment.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slid 1.4 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi tumbled 1.7 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1.2 per cent.
Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.7 per cent and the Shenzhen Composite Index shed two per cent.
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