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At the open: TSX advances on encouraging Alcoa results Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was higher Wednesday as U.S. resource giant Alcoa Inc. advanced following its first-quarter results and traders looked ahead to the release of minutes from the latest interest rate meeting at the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 12.42 points to 14,384.87.

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The Canadian dollar was down 0.12 of a cent to 91.44 cents (U.S.).

U.S. indexes were positive with the Dow Jones industrials ahead 36.67 points to 16,292.81, the Nasdaq rose 16.81 points to 4,129.8 and the S&P 500 index gained 3.1 points to 1,855.06.

Alcoa Inc. lost $178-million (U.S.) in the first quarter as the price it was paid for aluminum dropped eight per cent from a year ago. However, earnings excluding write-downs to reduce smelting and milling capacity were nine cents per share, four cents better than expectations and Alcoa shares rose 3.9 per cent in New York.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, Montreal-based discount chain Dollarama is hiking its quarterly dividend to 16 cents from 14 cents. The retailer also posted a quarterly net profit of $83-million (Canadian) and diluted earnings per share of $1.17. That compares with $77.1-million in the same quarter last year on diluted EPS of $1.04. Sales for the quarter were $582.2-million compared with $561.8-million year-over-year. Its shares ran ahead $4.71 to $90.49.

Meanwhile, investors looked for the mid-afternoon release of the minutes of the Fed’s March policy meeting for insight about the possible timing of interest rate hikes. In addition to further reducing its monthly asset purchase program by $10-billion (U.S.) to $55-billion, the central bank changed its forward guidance by dropping the 6.5 per cent unemployment rate tightening threshold.

Instead, it will monitor a variety of labour market and inflation indicators.

“Post-meeting, Chair Yellen added some (and perhaps too much) clarity by saying that rate hikes could begin ‘around six months’ after the asset purchase program ends; in other words, as early as next Spring,” observed BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri.

“‘We still look for a mid-2015 move.”

In other corporate developments, automaker Toyota is recalling 6.39 million vehicles globally for a variety of problems spanning nearly 30 models. No injuries or crashes have been reported related to the recalls but two reports of fires are linked to one of the problems, a defective engine starter that can keep the motor running. Its shares slipped 1.67 per cent .

Tech stocks led TSX advancers with BlackBerry ahead nine cents to $8.79 (Canadian).

Prices were mixed on the commodity markets with May crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 14 cents to $102.70 (U.S.) a barrel and the energy sector gained 0.17 per cent.

Gold stocks led decliners, down one per cent while June bullion fell $5.10 to $1,304 an ounce.

The base metals component slipped 0.1 per cent while May copper was down two cents to $3.03 a pound.

Meanwhile, the Greek government announced that it is tapping international bond markets for the first time in four years. The country’s finance ministry said the five-year bond issue would be in euros and “is expected to be priced and carried out in the immediate future.” Greece has been locked out of bond markets since 2010 and been relying on international bailout funds.

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