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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 8, 2013. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 8, 2013. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At midday: Stocks rise as traders look at bright side of jobs data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was higher Friday amid jobs data in Canada and the U.S. that breezed past expectations.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 54.96 points to 13,349.16.

The loonie was down 0.27 of a cent to 95.32 cents US after Statistics Canada reported that the economy created 13,200 jobs last month while the jobless rate held steady at 6.9 per cent. Economists had expected that about 11,000 jobs would be created.

The greenback was sharply higher after the U.S. Labor Department reported that the economy cranked out 204,000 jobs, far above the approximately 120,000 reading that was expected.

Gains in New York gained momentum as traders balanced the latest indication of an improving economy with rising concerns that the Federal Reserve will think the economy is strengthening to a point where it can start winding up its US$85 billion of monthly bond purchases. That stimulus program has supported a strong rally on markets.

“If it was a weak number, then the market would have discounted it because of the government shutdown,” said Philip Petursson, managing director, Portfolio Advisory Group Manulife Asset Management.

“But an excessively large print in spite of a government shutdown like we had just changes the belief or odds of tapering being delayed to March. And now, it’s maybe they can do it sooner.”

The Dow Jones industrials rose 77.7 points to 15,671.68, the Nasdaq climbed 42.66 points to 3,900 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 12.52 points to 1,759.67.

The jobless rate ticked up 0.1 of a point to 7.3 per cent, reflecting the huge temporary layoffs that resulted from the partial U.S. government shutdown during early October.

The strong employment data came out a day after a better than expected reading on third quarter U.S. economic growth also raised worries that the Fed could start to taper as soon as the end of December.

Investors also balanced the jobs data with another report showing declining consumer confidence.

The University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index fell to 72 during November, the lowest level in nearly two years and below expectations for 75.

It was a relatively quiet day on the earnings front where Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) posted adjusted net income rose of $365 million, an increase of nearly 60 per cent compared with that same time last year. The adjusted earnings amounted to $1.29 per share, which was 26 cents per share above analyst estimates. Its shares jumped 31 cents or 5.55 per cent to $5.90 after hitting a fresh, 52-week high of $6.19, highs not seen since before the 2008 recession.

Telus Corp. (TSX:T) rose 34 cents to $36.62 as the telecom reported its adjusted profit jumped to $365 million in the third quarter, up 13 per cent from a year earlier. On a per-share basis, Telus had 58 cents per share of adjusted earnings, two cents better than the estimate.

Financials led advancers as Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) gained 51 cents to $19.73, two cents short of a new 52-week high of $19.75 registered earlier in the session and Royal Bank (TSX:RY) improved by 64 cents to $70.46.

The tech sector was also ahead with BlackBerry shares up seven cents to $6.84 a day after Fairfax Financial (TSX:FFH) revealed the names of the five other investors in its US$1-billion financing of the smartphone maker. Mackenzie Financial Corp., Canso Investment Counsel Ltd., Markel Corp., Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Qatar Holding LLC have also contributed.

The energy sector was ahead 0.9 per cent while December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange edged up three cents to US$94.38 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) climbed 33 cents to $32.94.

There was also major acquisition activity in the resource sector as Talisman Energy Inc. (TSX:TLM) reached a deal to sell its interests in two B.C. natural gas partnerships for $1.5 billion in cash. The buyer is Progress Energy Corp., a formerly independent Canadian company that’s now a subsidiary of Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas.

Talisman has said for months that it planned to sell a large chunk of its assets in order to be more efficient and profitable. Its shares ran up 26 cents to $12.48.

The gold sector led decliners, down 1.25 per cent as bullion prices fell sharply on speculation the Fed could start winding up bond purchases and the December bullion contract was $23.20 lower to US$1,285.30 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) fell 25 cents to C$25.26.

The metals and mining sector fell 0.6 per cent with December copper unchanged at US$3.25 a pound. HudBay Minerals(TSX:HBM) slipped 39 cents to $8.35.

The interest rate sensitive utilities sector was a drag as U.S. bond yields moved up sharply on Fed speculation with the key U.S. 10-year Treasury up 0.15 of a point from Thursday at 2.75 per cent. Atlantic Power (TSX:ATP) tumbled 44 cents or 9.69 per cent to $4.10.

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