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Gold bars are stacked in the safe deposit boxes room of the Pro Aurum gold house in Munich on March 3, 2014. (MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)
Gold bars are stacked in the safe deposit boxes room of the Pro Aurum gold house in Munich on March 3, 2014. (MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)

At the open: Gold stocks push TSX slightly higher Add to ...

Gold stocks helped provide a minor advance on the Toronto stock market Tuesday.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 21.61 points to 15,127.24. The Canadian dollar was down 0.04 of a cent to 93.19 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were mainly in the red amid weak house price data, with the Dow Jones industrials down 19.17 points to 16,918.09, the Nasdaq up 6.82 points to 4,375.5 and the S&P 500 index eased 2.66 points to 1,959.95.

Traders digested data showing that U.S. home prices rose in April from a year ago at the slowest pace in 13 months, reflecting a recent drop-off in sales. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 10.8 per cent in April from 12 months earlier, down from 12.4 per cent in the previous month and the smallest since March 2013.

Home sales have slowed since last summer as higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a limited supply of available homes have priced many would-be buyers out of the market. Sales of existing homes in May were five per cent lower than 12 months earlier.

Later in the morning, the U.S. Commerce Department is expected to report that new home sales increased to 440,000 in May. In April, the annual rate of new single-family home sales rose 6.4 per cent to 433,000.

Also, the New York-based Conference Board releases its June reading on consumer confidence. The index is expected to edge up to 83.5 from 83 in May.

The TSX gold sector added to a string of gains, up 0.8 per cent. Gold prices and stocks have steadily advanced this month because of geopolitical worries centred around Iraq and tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The August bullion contract in New York rose $3.90 to $1,322.30 (U.S.) an ounce.

The energy sector was flat as oil prices edged lower with the August crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 16 cents to $106.01 a barrel.

Oil prices had risen steadily over the past couple of weeks amid a rising insurgency in Iraq. But prices stated to fall on Monday as fears receded that it would greatly affect its oil production and exports. OPEC Secretary General Abdullah Al-Badry said Tuesday that Iraq is “still producing as normal,” with 95 per cent of its capacity in the country’s south being unaffected by the violence.

The base metals sector was up slightly while copper was unchanged at $3.15 a pound following a three-cent rise Monday sparked by strong Chinese data.

On the corporate front, Bell Media, the radio and television division of BCE Inc., is laying off as many as 120 jobs or about five per cent of its Toronto workforce due to “financial pressure” in its advertising and subscription TV services. BCE shares dipped three cents to $48.50 (Canadian).

AGF Management Ltd. shares were down 34 cents to $12.44 as the mutual fund operator and wealth management company reported it had $14.5-million or 17 cents per share of net income in its fiscal second quarter, contrasting with a year-earlier loss of $10.4-million or 12 cents per share. Revenue from continuing operations was down from a year earlier, dropping to $119.1-million from $126.9-million.

Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries Inc. says it will adopt a single platform design for heavy-duty buses by the second half of 2015 in order to improve efficiency. It expects to deal with the impact on its people through a combination of workforce redeployments, retirements and departures through attrition. Its shares added six cents to $12.35.

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