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A worker installs rubber onto the windows of the doors along a production line at a truck factory of Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. Ltd (JAC Motors) in Hefei, Anhui province May 5, 2014. Activity in China's manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth consecutive month in April. (JIANAN YU/REUTERS)
A worker installs rubber onto the windows of the doors along a production line at a truck factory of Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. Ltd (JAC Motors) in Hefei, Anhui province May 5, 2014. Activity in China's manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth consecutive month in April. (JIANAN YU/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX flat amid improving Chinese data, mixed earnings Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher Thursday amid major deal making in the financial sector, a slew of earnings news and positive trade numbers from China.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 0.72 points to 14,657.12. The Canadian dollar gained 0.27 of a cent to 92.06 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were positive amid strong employment data.

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The Dow Jones industrials gained 68.46 points to 16,587 as the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 319,000, the latest sign that the job market is slowly improving.

Applications, a proxy for layoffs, are returning to pre-recession levels. The average for April was 312,000, the fewest since October 2007.

The Nasdaq was ahead 39.09 points to 4,106.76 and the S&P 500 index improved by 8.32 points to 1,886.53.

Investors were also encouraged Thursday by China’s April trade data that showed an improvement in exports. Exports rose 0.9 per cent from the previous year, compared with a 6.6 per cent decline in March. Imports also grew after a contraction in March but at a subdued level.

Scotiabank has signed a deal to buy a 20 per cent stake in Canadian Tire’s financial services business for $500-million in cash as part of a strategic partnership between the companies. Scotiabank shares rose 30 cents to $66.86 while Canadian Tire shed early gains to move down 53 cents to $107.32.

“It’s a good deal,” said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.

“It gives some added attractions to both organizations. Financing is a big deal and if you’re going to finance a lot of stuff you have to have someone who will make a long-term relationship.”

At the same time, Canadian Tire posted net income attributable to shareholders of $70.6-million, or 88 cents per share, down from $73-million, or 90 cents a share a year ago, which was five cents below analysts’ forecasts. Revenue met expectations, rising 3.8 per cent to $2.57-billion.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International posted a first-quarter net loss of $23-million or seven cents a share, compared with a loss of $27.5-million, or nine cents per share, in the same quarter of 2013. On a cash earnings per share basis, adjusted income was $600-million or $1.76 per diluted share, an increase of 35 per cent over the prior year and four cents ahead of estimates. Revenues jumped 77 per cent to $1.9-billion, up from $1.06-billion year-over-year and its shares gained 29 cents to $145.35.

Telus Corp. was ahead 29 cents to $39.74 as the telecom reported a first-quarter net profit up 4.1 per cent from a year ago to $377-million, or 61 cents per share, which met expectations. Revenue was up five per cent to $2.9-billion and exceeded expectations of $2.87-billion. Telus is also raising its dividend to 38 cents per share, an 11.8 per cent increase year-over-year.

Auto parts giant Magna International reported quarterly net income attributable to the company was $393-million and diluted earnings per share were $1.76, far below the $2.05 that analysts had expected. Sales were up seven per cent to $8.96-billion and its shares dropped 41 cents to $106.94.

The base metals component led advancers, up 1.45 per cent while July copper edged up three cents to $3.06 (U.S.) a pound.

The gold sector faded 0.2 per cent as June bullion was up 40 cents to $1,289.30 an ounce.

The energy sector drifted 0.68 per cent lower with June crude in New York 68 cents lower to $100.09 a barrel.

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