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The Toronto Stock Exchange was little changed early on Dec. 30. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
The Toronto Stock Exchange was little changed early on Dec. 30. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

At the open: TSX edges up as gold prices rise Add to ...

Rising gold stocks pushed the Toronto stock market slightly higher on top of three straight days of advances.

The S&P/TSX composite index was 7.8 points higher to 13,839.38.

The Canadian dollar slipped 0.28 of a cent to 91.25 cents US.

U.S. indexes were largely lacklustre amid mixed U.S. earnings reports from a variety of sectors and economic data showing rising industrial production and declining housing starts.

The Dow Jones industrials rose 22.71 points to 16,439.72, the Nasdaq was 6.73 points lower to 4,211.96 and the S&P 500 index was off 2.83 points to 1,843.06.

General Electric’s net income rose five per cent to $4.2 billion in the fourth quarter on rising profits from the sale of aircraft engines, oil and gas drilling equipment and appliances. Ex-items, GE met analyst expectations of 53 cents a share but its shares fell 57 cents to $26.63.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley earned $433 million, or 20 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2013. That compared to $982 million, or 49 cents a share, a year earlier. Ex-items, it earned 50 cents a share, six cents ahead of estimates.

The fourth quarter included legal expenses of $1.2 billion related to mortgage-backed securities lawsuits. Morgan Stanley shares gained 99 cents to $32.99.

After the close Thursday, Intel said its fourth-quarter net income rose six per cent to $2.63 billion or 51 cents a share, as the company offset flat demand for its personal computer chips with higher sales of other products. Revenue rose three per cent to $13.83 billion. Analysts expected a profit of 52 cents per share on revenue of $13.72 billion and its shares dropped $1.09 to $25.45.

Other stocks to watch Friday included retailer Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL), which said bad weather had a severe impact on its December sales but they have been trending back to normal levels. The Montreal-based retailer says comparable-store sales in the normally busy month were down 7.5 per cent, largely offsetting an 8.4 per cent increase in November.

Analyst Irene Nattel at RBC Dominion Securities said the warning came as no surprise.

“Extreme weather in Quebec and Ontario right before/around Xmas will have a negative impact on revenues for virtually all publicly traded retailers, most of which have extensive operations in those two provinces, which combined, account for 60 per cent of Canada’s population.”

Dollarama edged two cents higher to C$83.10.

RBC also downgraded Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) to sector perform from outperform after the transport giant said that its flagship new airliner will be going into service later than expected. Its stock fell 7.74 per cent Thursday on the news and lost a further 10 cents to $4.07 Friday.

Meanwhile, a consortium led by Bombardier Transportation has won a US$4.1-billion contract from the State of Queensland in Australia to supply 75 electric passenger trains, a new depot and maintenance for 30 years. Bombardier’s share is worth about US$2.7 billion.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC issued a profit warning for the fourth quarter, saying results will be worse than most analysts expected due to a mix of lower production, higher costs, and a worse performance by its refining division.

Shell shares were down 1.34 per cent to US$74.41 in New York.

And Crescent Point Energy Corp. (TSX:CPG) said it will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange starting next Wednesday under the ticker symbol CPG. Its shares slipped seven cents on the TSX to $39.33.

On the economic front, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday that builders broke ground last month at a seasonally annual rate of 999,000. That’s 9.8 per cent lower than November’s pace of 1.12 million, which was the fastest in five years.

For the year, builders started 923,000 homes and apartments, up 18.3 per cent from 2012.

Applications for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, fell three per cent in December to a rate of 986,000.

Other data showed that U.S. factory production rose 0.4 per cent in December, following gains of 0.6 per cent in both November and October.

The TSX gold sector ran up two per cent while February bullion rose $8.20 to US$1,248.40 an ounce.

March copper gained two cents to US$3.36 a pound, pushing the base metals sector up 0.15 per cent.

The energy component was flat while the February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 74 cents to US$94.70 a barrel.

European bourses were positive with London’s FTSE 100 index up 0.08 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX gained 0.31 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 advanced 0.05 per cent.

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