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Pedestrians pass by the Scotiabank location near Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto in this file photo. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Pedestrians pass by the Scotiabank location near Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto in this file photo. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

At midday: TSX up slightly amid expected bank earnings Add to ...

The Toronto stock market held onto a small advance late morning Monday amid hints about further stimulus measures for Europe and China.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 15.08 points to 14,723.18 as traders also anticipated another positive run of bank earnings this week.

New York markets are closed for the U.S. Memorial Day holiday.

CP Video May. 26 2014, 6:14 AM EDT

Video: Traders optimistic ahead of bank earnings

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There was also major news on the merger and acquisition front as Pfizer said it does not intend to make a takeover offer for British drugmaker AstraZeneca. The announcement Monday comes a week after AstraZeneca’s board rejected a proposed $119-billion (U.S.) buyout offer from Pfizer, the world’s second-biggest drugmaker by revenue. Pfizer had been waiting for AstraZeneca to engage in merger talks by a Monday deadline.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.1 of a cent to 92.1 cents (U.S.).

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank could engage in large-scale bond purchases to combat the negative spiral of low inflation if need be. Draghi’s remarks at a conference held out the prospect for action to stimulate the weak recovery at the ECB’s next governing council meeting June 5.

The meeting will take place against the background of a slow recovery in the 18 countries that share the euro currency and concern that Europe may fall into a crippling downward price spiral.

Also, remarks by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang suggested Beijing is preparing further mini-stimulus measures to support the economy. Li said appropriate policy tools and timely fine tuning are being prepared as the world’s second biggest economy continues to face “relatively big” downward pressure, the state-run China Daily newspaper said Saturday.

“I think Draghi’s comments are probably having a more meaningful impact,” said Jean-Francois Dion, portfolio adviser at RBC Wealth Management.

“There has been some anticipation or hope that there would be some sort of quantitative easing announcement coming out of the ECB at some point over the coming months.”

The base metals sector led TSX advancers, up 0.7 per cent with copper prices improving in the wake of the Chinese premier’s comments. Commodity markets were closed in New York, but July copper gained two cents to $3.19 a pound in electronic trading.

The financials sector was also supportive, up 0.3 per cent as traders look to take in earnings from National Bank and Scotiabank on Tuesday, Bank of Montreal on Wednesday and CIBC on Thursday. Hopes are high for another series of solid reports after Royal Bank and TD Bank posted earnings reports last week that blew past expectations with strong contributions from major divisions and lower loan loss provisions.

“Overall, good numbers and expectations have certainly shifted higher following the numbers from TD and Royal,” added Dion.

“Sentiment towards the banks has certainly improved quite a bit here over the past few months or so. Initially there was quite a bit of concern around the Canadian housing market potential for a hard landing. That seems to have been sort of washed out to some extent . . . and that has certainly helped re-rate some of the banking stocks.”

Those bank earnings helped push the TSX up 1.33 per cent last week.

The gold sector shed early gains and the sector was down 0.25 per cents, while June bullion gained 90 cents to $1,292.6 an ounce.

The energy sector also moved lower as July crude moved down 17 cents to $104.18 a barrel.

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