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Barrick Gold chairman and founder Peter Munk has seen his fortunes fall as gold and copper prices plummet. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Barrick Gold chairman and founder Peter Munk has seen his fortunes fall as gold and copper prices plummet. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher Thursday as relief that U.S. lawmakers have headed off a potential default was muted by the fact that Republicans and Democrats will be locking horns again over the debt issue in just a few months.

The S&P/TSX composite index edged up 15.61 points to 12,972.82 with lift coming primarily from a sharp gain in the gold sector.

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The Canadian dollar was up 0.41 of a cent to 97.18 cents US while the U.S. dollar weakened after the Senate and House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday night that reopens the government through Jan. 15 and permits the U.S. Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 or perhaps a month longer.

It included nothing for Republicans demanding to eradicate or scale back President Barack Obama’s signature health-care overhaul.

U.S. indexes were mixed following a strong relief rally over the previous two sessions. But markets were also pressured by weak earnings reports from IBM and Goldman Sachs and the Dow Jones industrials fell 69.87 points to 15,303.96.

The Nasdaq gained 2.19 points to 3,841.62 and the S&P 500 index added 0.83 of a point to 1,722.37.

The debt deal was reached just before a deadline when the U.S. borrowing authority was set to expire, meaning the government would have started to run out of money to pay creditors.

“The deal comes not a minute too soon,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri.

“Of course this is only a temporary solution and more hard work needs to be done to avoid another standoff in the new year. But the political damage to the GOP could see it play nicer in the sandbox, for fear of losing their majority in the House in the November 2014 elections.”

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, welcomed the deal but said the shaky American economy needs more stable long-term management.

Meanwhile, traders took in a fresh batch of earnings reports from a variety of companies, including market heavyweights Goldman Sachs and IBM, and looked ahead to the release of a slew of earnings reports which weren’t released earlier this month because of the government shutdown.

On Thursday, Goldman Sachs’ posted third-quarter net earnings of US$1.52-billion, or $2.88 a share, up from $1.51-million, or $2.85 a share a year ago. Revenue fell to $6.72-billion from $8.35-billion a year earlier. Analysts expected earnings of $2.46 a share on revenue of $7.34-billion and its shares fell $4.11 to $158.14.

After the market close Wednesday, IBM said that its third-quarter net income rose six per cent, but revenue fell and missed Wall Street’s expectations by more than $1-billion, pushing its stock down $11.37, or six per cent, to $175.36.

Worries that the U.S. deal to avoid default only postpones the debt problems helped push most commodity prices lower.

But December bullion gained $37.10 to US$1,319.40 an ounce and the gold sector ran ahead about 4.25 per cent. Goldcorp (TSX:G) improved by 97 cents to C$25.38 while Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) lost 68 cents to $18.91.

The base metals component rose one per cent even as December copper slipped two cents to US$3.29 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) ran up 55 cents to C$28.46.

Tech stocks led TSX decliners, down over one per cent with CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) down $1.35 to C$37.06.

Industrials were also weak with Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) stepping back $1.61 to $133.

The telecom sector was down 0.6 per cent after the federal government outlined plans in its throne speech Wednesday that would mandate an unbundling of cable TV offerings. There was also a promise to reduce smart phone roaming charges and Telus (TSX:T) was off 50 cents to C$34.25.

The November crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost $1.52 to US$100.77 a barrel and the energy sector slipped 0.1 per cent. Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) fell 25 cents to C$30.74.

European bourses declined as London’s FTSE 100 index slipped 0.21 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was down 0.54 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 lost 0.24 per cent.

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