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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 15, 2013. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 15, 2013. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At midday: Stocks hang on to gains Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was modestly higher amid optimism that the Federal Reserve likely won’t be cutting stimulus as early as thought while giving a muted response to a sweeping economic reform plan from the Chinese government.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 32.21 points to 13,463.59.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.04 of a cent to 95.57 cents US amid strong manufacturing data for September.

Statistics Canada reported that manufacturing shipments rose 0.6 per cent to $49.9-billion in September. Economists had expected they’d rise about 0.5 per cent.

U.S. indexes were higher with the Dow Jones industrials ahead 48.94 points to 15,925.16, the Nasdaq was up 5.4 points to 3,978.14 while the S&P 500 index gained 3.29 points to 1,793.91.

In a report issued after a closely watched Communist Party conference, China’s ruling party pledged to ease barriers to private competitors in markets controlled by state companies. At the same time, they reaffirmed that government-owned industry is the core of the economy.

However, it left out many details of what role private or foreign competitors might be allowed in government-controlled industries such as energy, telecoms and finance. But it outlined changes clearly intended to make industries more efficient and productive by injecting more competition.

Analysts say markets were expecting something more from Chinese leaders who are under pressure to replace a growth model based on exports and investment that delivered three decades of rapid growth but has now run out of steam.

“It looks like they are going to do some reforms which should help out growth over time,” said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Financial.

“But I don’t think it was as immediate and because of that, markets didn’t take off (on the news). So it isn’t negative, it isn’t overly optimistic, just slightly positive.”

Meanwhile, the woman most likely to succeed Ben Bernanke at the helm of the Fed made it clear that she’s prepared to continue the central bank’s low-interest rate policies to keep the U.S. economic recovery on track.

During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Janet Yellen warned critics that any potential risks posed by those policies are outweighed by the risk of leaving a still-weak economy to survive without them.

Her statements convinced markets that the central bank won’t reduce its US$85-billion of monthly bond purchases until at least March.

December crude edged up 21 cents to US$93.97 a barrel and the energy sector ticked ahead 0.5 per cent. Bonavista Energy (TSX:BNP) rose 38 cents to C$12.61.

Industrials were also supportive as heavy equipment company Finning International (TSX:FTT) rose 84 cents to $24.98.

The gold sector was the biggest decliner, down 0.75 per cent slightly higher while December bullion inched up 30 cents to US$1,286.60 an ounce. Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) faded six cents to $3.28.

Copper prices inched higher after tumbling earlier in the week and the December contract was up one cent at US$3.17 a pound. The base metals component was off 0.2 per cent and Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) fell four cents to $2.16.

On the corporate front, private equity firm Onex Corp. (TSX:OCX) reported Friday it earned US$399-million or $3.22 a share in its latest quarter, compared with a profit of $98-million or $1.50 per share a year ago. Revenue grew 16 per cent to $7.13-billion and its shares advanced 58 cents to $57.18.

Montreal-based Saputo Inc. (TSX:SAP) has raised its offer for an Australian dairy company, which is the focus of a heated takeover battle. Saputo’s new offer is $9 per share in Australian currency, valuing Warrnambool Cheese and Butter’s equity at about A$499-million, or about C$487-million. Saputo’s previous offer was A$8 per share. Saputo shares gained 30 cents to C$49.

Media giant Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) is reorganizing the advertising sales operations at the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, and moving them to an affiliated company. It says Metro English Canada will become the point of contact for advertising placed with the Star, the Metro commuter paper and other properties in the Star Media Group. About 80 jobs are being cut. Torstar shares dipped two cents to $5.72.

European bourses were positive with London’s FTSE 100 index up 0.19 per cent and Frankfurt’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were ahead 0.1 per cent.

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