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Toronto stock market drifts lower Add to ...

The Toronto stock market drifted slightly lower Thursday morning amid a mixed string of earnings reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 15.63 points to 15,186.46.

The Canadian dollar was off 0.05 of a cent to 91.58 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were positive as the Dow Jones industrials rose 33.94 points to 16,477.28, the Nasdaq gained 16.41 points to 4,371.46 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 5.04 points to 1,925.28.

Ongoing tensions continued over the crisis in Ukraine amid fresh Russian sanctions on the West. Trading has been lacklustre over the last several sessions as traders worry about Russia getting more involved in the Ukraine government’s fight against pro-Russian rebels.

Analysts have said there are also concerns that the Federal Reserve could hike U.S. interest rates sooner than first thought.

But on Thursday, traders focused on earnings, particularly in the insurance sector where Manulife Financial hiked its quarterly dividend 2.5 cents to 15.5 cents a share. It is the first dividend hike since 2009, when it chopped the payment by half. Core earnings, which exclude extraordinary items, rose to 36 cents a share from 31 cents, four cents below expectations. Its shares gained 16 cents to $22.13.

Sun Life Financial Inc. delivered overall operating net income, excluding certain items and discontinued operations, of $488-million or 80 cents per share, up from $431-million or 71 cents per share in the second quarter of 2013. That beat analyst estimates of 66 cents a share and its shares climbed 39 cents to $41.54.

Elsewhere, Air Canada says quarterly net income grew to $223-million, or 75 cents per share, compared to a loss of $23-million, or nine cents per share, a year ago. Operating revenues grew to $3.3-billion from $3.06-billion in the comparable period. Its shares fell 33 cents or 3.55 per cent to $8.93.

Canadian Tire Corp. posted second-quarter net income of $178.9-million, or $2.12 per share, compared to $154.9-million or $1.91 a year earlier and above the consensus estimate of $2.02. Revenue increased to $3.17-billion from $3.02-billion and shares gained $4.27 to $108.80.

BCE Inc. profits grew 6.1 per cent in the second quarter to $606-million, or 78 cents per share as the company benefited from new revenue sources tied to its acquisition of Astral Media. Adjusted earnings grew to 82 cents per share from 77 cents, a cent short of estimates. Operating revenues increased 4.4 per cent to $5.22-billion and its shares dipped 24 cents to $48.64.

Overseas, the European Central Bank said that it is leaving benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.15 per cent. Later, at a news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi cautioned that the crisis in Ukraine could weigh on the fragile economic recovery in the eurozone. He said the fallout from Ukraine was “hard to assess” but that sanctions and countersanctions could increase the impact.

The gold sector was a weight on the TSX, down 0.8 per cent while December bullion faded $1.90 to US$1,306.30 an ounce.

The energy sector was off 0.5 per cent as the September crude contract in New York was ahead six cents higher to US$96.98 a barrel.

The base metals component declined 0.2 per cent as September copper gained a cent to US$3.17.


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