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A trader is reflected in a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the opening bell in New York, January 2, 2014. (CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
A trader is reflected in a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the opening bell in New York, January 2, 2014. (CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX rises on positive Canadian, U.S. economic data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was higher Friday amid a generally positive bag of economic data from Canada and the U.S.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 50.61 points to 14,265.35.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.56 of a cent to 90.36 cents (U.S.) after Statistics Canada reported that fourth quarter economic growth came in at an annualized pace of 2.9 per cent.

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That was better than the 2.5 per cent rise that was expected. Also, the agency raised its initial estimates for the first and second quarters of 2013 and said the overall growth rate for the year was 2 per cent – the highest since 2011.

But gross domestic product contracted by 0.5 per cent in December amid severe winter weather conditions late in the month, which was more than the 0.3 per cent drop that economists expected.

U.S. indexes advanced as the first revision to fourth quarter GDP showed that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.4 per cent, matching expectations but down from the original 3.2 per cent reading as fierce winter weather also hit huge parts of the country during December.

“The U.S. Q4 GDP number revision was not really a surprise,” said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse, observing that the number will be revised again next month.

“That’s the kind of number we’re comfortable with and is fairly close to our forecast for this year (of) 2.6 per cent. Nothing very exciting there.”

Gains in U.S. indexes sharply improved mid-morning after the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, a gauge of manufacturing activity in the American Midwest, showed stronger than expected expansion this month, coming in at 59.8, up from 59.6 in January. The University of Michigan’s influential consumer confidence index came in at 81.6, up from 81.2 in January.

The Dow Jones industrials were 80.91 points higher to 16,353.56, the Nasdaq climbed 12.9 points to 4,331.83 and the S&P 500 index rose 9.22 points to 1,863.51.

There was also major acquisition activity as U.S. toymaker Mattel, Inc. made a friendly takeover offer for Canadian company Mega Brands Inc., which has the world’s No. 2 line of construction sets after Lego. The deal values the Montreal-based firm at $460-million (U.S.), including debt.

Mattel is offering $17.75 (Canadian) cash per share of Mega Brands. On Friday, Mega Brands stock charged ahead 35.65 per cent to $17.73.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the crisis in Ukraine as fugitive Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych pledged Friday to fight for his country’s future but said he will not ask for military assistance.

IG market analyst Stan Sahmu said that while traders for now are focused on economic indicators, “the Ukraine situation seems to be escalating in the background and could haunt markets in coming weeks.”

The industrials group led TSX advancers, up about one per cent.

The energy sector climbed 0.83 per cent while the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 25 cents to $102.65 (U.S.) a barrel.

The base metals sector was ahead 0.13 per cent while May copper was a cent lower at $3.19 a pound.

The gold sector was the main decliner, down 0.9 per cent while April bullion dipped $5.40 to $1,326.40 an ounce.

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