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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange January 13, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange January 13, 2014. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At midday: TSX up slightly on Canadian, U.S. data Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was modestly higher Friday at the end of a positive week as encouraging economic data from the United States continued to improve buying sentiment.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 29.46 points to 14,391.29.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.26 of a cent at 89.21 cents (U.S.) in the wake of a better than expected reading on retail sales for January and slowing price pressures.

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Statistics Canada said sales were up 1.3 per cent, against the 0.7 per cent rise that had been expected.

U.S. markets were mixed after data suggested that the country’s economic growth should bounce back following a harsh winter.

The Dow Jones industrials jumped 110.96 points to 16,442.01, the Nasdaq fell 10.53 points to 4,308.75 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 8.33 points to 1,880.34.

The U.S. Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose in February by the largest amount in three months. And a key manufacturing reading, the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index, rebounded in March from a negative reading in February.

The data helped persuade investors that the U.S. economy is strengthening to a point where it can withstand higher short term rates.

“(The data) could have been a whole lot worse – all the talk earlier was that it was going to be a lot worse,” said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.

“But when they finally get down to the numbers, they escaped a bit, we escaped along with them and it gives you a good feeling.”

Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. central bank could begin raising short-term rates six months after it halts its bond purchases around year’s end. The Fed has been steadily cutting back on those purchases, a key element of stimulus that had kept long-term rates low, since December.

Most TSX sectors were higher with the consumer staples sector ahead 1.3 per cent.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. has received approval from the Competition Bureau for its $12.4-billion purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., on the condition that it will sell 18 stores and nine pharmacies. Loblaw rose $1.43 or 3.09 per cent to $47.65 and Shoppers gained 93 cents or 1.53 per cent to $61.54.

Economic optimism sent commodities higher, with May copper up three cents to $2.96 (U.S.) a pound and the base metals sector gained 1.14 per cent.

The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up $1.16 to $100.06 a barrel and the energy sector was 0.37 per cent higher.

The gold sector was up 0.15 per cent as the April gold contract gained $5.90 to $1,336.40 an ounce after four days of declines as traders hoped the Ukraine crisis wouldn’t worsen.

Elsewhere on the corporate front, conductors, yard workers and other train workers at Canadian National Railways have rejected a second tentative contract, prompting the company to suggest the talks go to a form of binding arbitration. Its shares were down 10 cents to $62.74.

BlackBerry shares dipped two cents to $10.59 as it announced the sale of a majority of its real estate holdings in Canada. Terms of the deal and the buyer were not disclosed.

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