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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 9, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 9, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX advances, investors await Fed remarks Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher late morning Wednesday as investors considered a variety of earnings reports from the retail, energy and mining sectors.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 45.54 points to 14,628.65.

The Canadian dollar slipped 0.18 of a cent to 91.14 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were tepid ahead of the end of the Federal Reserve’s two-day interest rate meeting and data showing economic growth for the first quarter fell far short of expectations. Gross domestic product grew by only 0.1 per cent, against the 1.2 per cent annualized gain that had been expected because of severe winter weather.

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The Dow Jones industrials added 8.19 points to 16,543.56, the Nasdaq fell 8.29 points to 4,095.25 while the S&P 500 index inched up 0.28 of a point to 1,878.61.

Meanwhile, the Fed was expected to stick to plans to reduce monthly bond purchases by $10-billion this month and provide further insight into the state of the world’s biggest economy.

Traders will also look for further indications of when the Fed might start to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since the financial crisis.

It was a heavy day for Canadian earnings news as Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said adjusted net earnings went up by 3.7 per cent to $139-million or 49 cents a share in the first quarter, beating estimates of 46 cents. Revenues were up 1.2 per cent to $7.29-billion, missing estimates of $7.32-billion. The grocer also boosted its dividend about 2.1 per cent to 24.5 cents a share and its stock was up $1.55 to $47.35.

Analysts note the positive showing comes after the company spent heavily in recent years on consultants and IT groups to put in systems to better track inventory.

“So for the last two or three years, they were running kind of below expectations because of that heavy spending,” said Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Private Client Group.

“And that’s all behind them now, so they’re clearly better able to execute and then increasingly the focus now is on the acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart as well.”

Barrick Gold Corp. posted a steep drop in its first-quarter adjusted net earnings to $238-million, or 20 cents per share, from $923-million, or 92 cents per share a year ago due to a decrease in metal prices and lower gold sales volume. Results beat analyst estimates by a penny. Revenues were $2.6-billion compared with $3.4-billion year-over-year. Its shares dipped 13 cents to $19.22 amid lower gold prices Wednesday. In the U.S., Twitter shares plunged 10 per cent in New York. The social networking site’s quarterly earnings and revenue surpassed analyst expectations, but investors were disappointed about Twitter’s growth in users, which came in at 255 million monthly users, about two million lower than analyst consensus.

Cenovus Energy handed in operating earnings, which excluded some items, of $378-million or 50 cents a share in the first quarter, down three per cent from the same quarter last year but two cents better than estimates. However, cash flow per share was $1.19 versus the $1.22 expected and its shares fell 51 cents to $32.51.

Most TSX sectors were higher and the TSX base metals sector edged up 0.5 per cent while July copper moved four cents lower to $3.04 (U.S.) a pound.

The energy sector led decliners, down 0.8 per cent with June crude in New York down $1.49 to $99.79 a barrel.

The gold sector declined 0.55 per cent as June bullion fell $3.60 to $1,292.70 an ounce.

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