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Janet Yellen will have her hands full this week as the Fed decides what to do with its forward guidance. (Joshua Roberts/REUTERS)
Janet Yellen will have her hands full this week as the Fed decides what to do with its forward guidance. (Joshua Roberts/REUTERS)

At midday: Stocks rise on Yellen speech Add to ...

The Toronto stock market held onto gains near midday, in line with major markets around the world after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reinforced the need for “extraordinary” commitment to support the U.S. economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index lifted 48.98 points to 14,309.70, while the Canadian dollar was at 90.60 cents US, rising 0.18 of a cent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials added 104.58 points to 16,427.64, the Nasdaq lifted 44.47 points to 4,200.23 and the S&P 500 index rose 12.56 points to 1,870.18.

Many global stocks rose for a fifth straight session, while gold, the yen and other safety assets fell. The euro continued to bounce back against the U.S. dollar even as softer-than-forecast inflation numbers added to the discussion of whether the European Central Bank will cut interest rates when it meets later this week.

The S&P 500 was setting up for a monthly gain, the 14th in the past 17 months. A winning quarter for the index would be the fifth straight, matching streaks seen in 2006-2007 and 2003-2004.

Ms. Yellen on Monday gave a strong defense for the Fed’s easy-money policies in her first public speech since becoming the Fed’s chief.

“I think this extraordinary commitment is still needed and will be for some time, and I believe that view is widely shared by my fellow policymakers at the Fed,” she said at a community reinvestment conference in Chicago.

Earlier, Statistics Canada said that Canada’s gross domestic product grew by 0.5 per cent in January, ahead of the forecast of 0.3 per cent growth. Economists had expected the economy to rebound after declining 0.5 per cent in December, when bad weather affected much of the country.

At the end of the week, Statistics Canada will release employment data for March. It’s expected that overall employment will have risen by 20,000, leaving the jobless rate unchanged at about seven per cent.

In commodities, the May crude oil contract fell 54 cents to $101.13, with the TSX energy sector 0.3 per cent higher.

Gold stocks were the biggest decliner, sliding 1.7 per cent, as June bullion fell $5.30 to $1,289 an ounce. May copper slipped two cents as well.

In corporate developments, Encana Corp. has agreed to sell certain natural gas properties in Wyoming for about $1.8-billion (U.S.) to an affiliate of TPG Capital. The deal involves about 1,500 active wells in the Jonah field. Encana shares lost nine cents to $23.61.

Darren Entwistle is stepping aside as president and CEO of Telus Corp., one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies. He’ll be replaced in those posts by Telus veteran executive Joe Natale effective May 8, when the company has its shareholders meeting. Telus shares dropped 29 cents to $40.06.

Canadian autoparts manufacturer Martinrea International Inc. is looking for a new president and chief executive officer to replace Nick Orlando, who will remain in the position for now.

The announcement came as Martinrea reported financial results for the year and fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 and said a special committee of its board has concluded its review of earlier public disclosures and determined there’s no need to change earlier statements. Shares of Martinrea were up $1.21 or 14 per cent to $9.98.

In the United States, Johnson & Johnson shares rose one per cent after the company accepted an offer of about $4-billion from the private equity firm Carlyle Group to buy its Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics business.

European bourses were slightly higher after consumer price data for the euro zone showed inflation at its lowest since late 2009. The annualized rate in March fell to 0.5 per cent, which was below analyst estimates.

London’s FTSE 100 index was up 0.4 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was flat and the Paris CAC 40 dropped 0.2 per cent.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was up 0.90 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.39 per cent.

- With files from Reuters

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