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(FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
(FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

At midday: Gold stocks push TSX higher Add to ...

The Toronto stock market registered a small advance Thursday as investors bought up stocks in the badly-beaten down gold sector.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 18.61 points to 13,368.38, as traders wade through a series of U.S. economic data.

Sharply lower oil prices helped push the Canadian dollar down 0.52 of a cent to 94.45 cents US.

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The slide came amid a report that suggests the Canadian economy will improve over the next two years. The Conference Board of Canada expects gross domestic product to grow by 2.4 per cent during 2014 following a tepid rise of just 1.8 per cent this year.

And it said that even stronger growth is anticipated in 2015.

U.S. indexes were higher as the Dow Jones industrials climbed 24.14 points to 16,096.94, the Nasdaq gained 18.62 points to 4,036.37 after the index closed above the 4,000-mark Tuesday for the first time since September 2000, while the S&P 500 index edged up 4.2 points to 1,806.95.

As traders get set to wind down for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday when U.S. markets will be shuttered, they took in data showing U.S. jobless insurance claims, which are a proxy for layoffs, fell by 10,000 last week to 316,000. Economists had expected a slight rise.

Orders for American durable goods fell two per cent during October, which was in line with expectations. Excluding transportation, orders dipped 0.1 per cent.

At the same time, orders for American durable goods fell two per cent during October, which was in line with expectations. Excluding transportation, orders dipped 0.1 per cent.

A key gauge of the manufacturing sector in the U.S. Midwest showed slower expansion. The Chicago purchasing managers index dropped to a higher than expected 63 in November from 65.9 in October.

The U.S. Conference Board said its leading economic indicator rose 0.2 per cent during October. That data gives an indication on where the American economy is heading over the next six months.

And the University of Michigan releases its latest reading on U.S. consumer-sentiment. It is expected to rise slightly to 73 during November.

The gold sector led advances, up 0.8 per cent while December bullion rose $4.10 to US$1,245.50 an ounce. Kinross Gold (TSX:K) was up six cents to C$4.93.

Gains in railroad stocks also lifted the TSX as Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) ran up $2.63 to $162.25.

Financials were also positive with Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) ahead 23 cents to $20.41.

The base metal sector was a major weight, down 1.24 per cent while December copper was unchanged at US$3.21 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) dropped 28 cents to C$25.24.

The energy sector lost 0.47 per cent as oil prices retreated ahead of the release of the latest inventory figures for the United States.

The January crude contract fell $1.54 to US$92.14 a barrel. Supply data for last week is expected to show a decline of 1.5 million barrels in U.S. crude oil stocks and an increase of one million barrels in gasoline stocks. Crude supplies have increased for the past nine weeks. Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE) fell 74 cents to C$42.45.

The interest rate sensitive utilities sector lost 1.33 per cent with TransAlta Corp. (TSX:TA) down 61 cents to $14.06. The sector has been under selling pressure amid rising U.S. bond yields amid speculation about when the Federal Reserve might cut back on its US$85 billion of monthly bond purchases.

On the corporate front, Descartes Systems Group (TSX:DSG) says its long-time chief executive, Arthur Mesher, has retired as CEO and chairman of the board due to health and personal issues.

The company, which operates a global logistics system used by freight carriers, also said it expects revenue for its fiscal third quarter will be in a range of US$38.5 million to US$38.8 million versus expectations of $38.43 million. That would be up from US$32.7 million a year earlier.

It’s also estimating income before income taxes being in the range of US$4.1 million to US$4.3 million, against expectations of US$4.42 million and its shares fell 98 cents to $13.67.

Elsewhere on the tech front, Hewlett-Packard posted net income of $1.4 billion for its fiscal fourth-quarter. HP’s profit amounted to 73 cents per share and compared with a loss of $6.9 billion, or $3.49 per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time charges, the company earned $1.01 per share for the recent period. Revenue fell three per cent to $29.1 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected a profit of $1 per share on $27.86 billion in revenue. Its shares ran up $2.06 or 8.2 per cent to $27.15.

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