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A trader watches his screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 18, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
A trader watches his screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 18, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX slightly higher Add to ...

The Toronto stock market registered a modest gain Tuesday amid data that showed severe winter weather is having an impact on U.S. economic performance.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 27.8 points to 14,082.56. The Canadian dollar moved up 0.2 of a cent from Friday’s close to 91.25 cents (U.S.) amid higher prices for oil and metals.

New York indexes were largely lacklustre as the Empire State Manufacturing Index for February, a gauge of manufacturing activity in the U.S. Northeast, declined to a much worse than expected reading of 4.48 in February. That was down from 12.5 in January, with severe winter weather conditions likely playing a big part in the slide.

The Dow Jones industrials inched ahead 0.67 of a point to 16,155.06, the Nasdaq was up 26.38 points to 4,270.41 while the S&P 500 index added 2.78 points to 1,841.41.

Also, the U.S. National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index tumbled 10 points to 46. Economists had expected a flat showing. But the NAHB also reported that its buyer traffic index fell nine points to 31 as fewer prospective buyers felt like braving severe winter conditions in many parts of the U.S. But economists wondered just how much the showing had to do with weather conditions.

“Much of the steep drop did capture weakness in buyer traffic that would in part reflect harsher than normal weather conditions that kept people at home – but weather wasn’t exactly balmy in January either,” observed CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld.

Meanwhile, there was also major dealmaking in the pharmaceutical sector. Actavis PLC announced that it is buying fellow drugmaker Forest Laboratories Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth about US$25-billion.

There was positive news from Japan where the central bank plans to top up its monetary stimulus by doubling the size of its fund to support bank lending and economic growth. The funds, which were due to expire shortly, were extended for another year after fourth quarter economic growth fell short of forecasts.

In earnings news, Choice Properties Real Estate Investment Trust reported an adjusted profit of $36.8-million, which came in above a forecast of $34.6-million when Choice prepared its initial public offering last summer. Its funds from operations, another key financial measure for real estate companies, was $82.8-million compared with the forecast of $78.9-million. Its units were five cents lower at $10.40.

The Coca-Cola Co. said it earned 46 cents per share ex-items, in line with expectations. But revenue of $11.04-billion was short of the $11.31-billion expected and its shares fell 3.5 per cent to $37.55.

The information technology sector led TSX gainers, up one per cent with BlackBerry up 51 cents or 5.17 per cent to $10.38.

The base metals sector advanced 0.53 per cent while March copper was up two cents to $3.29 a pound.

The March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained $1.19 to $101.49 a barrel. The energy sector rose 0.13 per cent.

The gold sector edged up 0.03 per cent as April bullion climbed $3.70 to $1,322.30 an ounce.

Industrials led decliners, down 0.3 per cent.

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