The Toronto stock market was little changed Thursday as weak trade data from China raised fresh questions about the pace of growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 10.16 points to 14,425.42 as China’s exports fell 6.6 per cent in March from a year earlier, well below analyst expectations of single-digit growth. Imports contracted by 11.3 per cent.
The Canadian dollar dipped 0.21 of a cent to 91.77 cents (U.S.).
In a speech Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang said the foundation for China’s growth is “not strong” and the economy still faces “downward pressure.” But he ruled out additional short-term stimulus.
U.S. indexes were mainly higher as the Dow Jones industrials climbed 12.58 points to 16,449.76, the Nasdaq dropped 9.59 points to 4,174.31 and the S&P 500 index inched up 0.23 of a point at 1,872.41.
The Chinese trade data raised worries that the world’s second-biggest economy will have trouble meeting its official target of 7.5 per cent growth this year. It also pushed some analysts to lower already reduced expectations for growth.
Barclays Bank, for one, lowered its first quarter gross domestic product forecast to 7.2 per cent year over year from 7.3 per cent.
“Our revision reflects more signs of soft domestic and external demand in Q1,” Barclays said.
“Weak import growth in Q1 is consistent with the deceleration in investment growth since the fourth quarter of 2013. Fixed asset investment growth, at 17.9 per cent year over year year to date in January-February, has declined to its slowest pace since 2002 and is down from 21.2 per cent recorded a year ago.”
There was also some positive news about the Chinese markets. Officials announced plans to link the Hong Kong and Shanghai bourses, a move that would widen access to China for foreign investors. Securities regulators said the changes would allow stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai to be traded on each other’s markets, a move that would expand the pool of investors for each market.
The gold sector advanced almost one per cent while bullion prices headed higher with the June contract up $13.50 to $1,319.40 (U.S.) an ounce.
The energy sector was up 0.14 per cent while the sluggish Chinese data helped push the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 33 cents to $103.27 a barrel.
Copper was unchanged at $3.04 a pound, but the metal has already fallen 11 per cent this year amid lower expectations for Chinese economic growth. The base metals sector rose 0.4 per cent.
In earnings news, Corus Entertainment Inc. says its quarterly net income attributable to shareholders was $6.1-million (Canadian) or seven cents a share, compared with $5.9-million and seven cents a share a year ago. Revenues were up 11 per cent to $191.4-million in the quarter. Ex-items, earnings were $26.7-million, up 10 per cent from a year ago and its shares slipped seven cents to $23.92.
Shaw Communications Inc. posted quarterly net income of $222-million or 46 cents a share, compared with net income of $182-million and EPS of 38 cents in the same quarter of 2013. Revenues were $1.27-billion, up two per cent from $1.25-billion last year and its shares edged up five cents to $26.49.
Goldcorp Inc. is upping its offer for Montreal-based Osisko Mining Corp., which has been opposing the takeover proposal. Goldcorp says Osisko shareholders would receive $2.92 cash, up from $2.26, and 0.17 of a Goldcorp common share, up from 0.146 of a share, in the new proposal. Goldcorp says its revised offer values Osisko at $3.6-billion or $7.65 per Osisko share. Goldcorp declined 34 cents to $27.50 while Osisko climbed 12 cents to $7.67.