Rising gold stocks gave the Toronto stock market a slight gain in early trading Friday as traders digested a mixed bag of economic indicators.
The S&P/TSX composite index was up 12.88 points to 14,014.53.
The Canadian dollar was unchanged at 91.1 cents (U.S.) as manufacturing shipments declined 0.9 per cent during December. It was the first decline since last August.
New York indexes were lacklustre as harsh winter weather led to U.S. factory output falling by 0.8 per cent during January. Traders also awaited the latest reading on U.S. consumer confidence coming out later in the morning.
The Dow Jones industrials lost 38.09 points to 15,989.5, the Nasdaq was 12.63 points lower to 4,228.05 while the S&P 500 index was down 3.66 points to 1,826.17.
Elsewhere, China’s consumer prices rose 2.5 per cent over a year earlier in January, unchanged from December. The rise in politically sensitive food costs slowed to 3.7 per cent from December’s 4.1 per cent.
Traders found the inflation data encouraging because it leaves the Chinese government room to stimulate the world’s second-biggest economy.
Other data showed that economic growth across the eurozone was stronger than expected at the end of 2013 as gross domestic product grew by 0.3 per cent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter. That adds up to an annualized rate of about 1.2 per cent. Analysts had been looking for fourth quarter growth of 0.2 per cent.
The TSX gold sector gained 2.77 per cent while April bullion gained $17.80 to $1,317.90 (U.S.) an ounce.
Oil price declines deepened in the wake of the U.S. data as March crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange declined 72 cents to $99.63 (U.S.) a barrel. The energy sector was flat.
The base metals component was also little changed while March copper was up one cent at $3.26 (U.S.) a pound.
It was relatively quiet on the earnings front after traders waded through a heavy slate of reports Thursday from the manufacturing, insurance, and resource sectors.
On Friday, Enbridge Inc. posted a fourth quarter net loss of $267-million as it recognized lower values for some of its assets. Ex-items, the pipeline and energy services company earned 44 cents a share, two cents short of estimates and its shares dipped seven cents to $47.30 (Canadian).
Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. reported a quarterly net loss of$5.5-million (U.S.) or 98 cents per share, compared with net earnings of $402.4-million a year ago. Fairfax said the results reflected unrealized losses on its investment portfolio only partly offset by improved underwriting results and its shares were off $3.92 to $435.08.
There was major acquisition activity in the U.S. as Jos. A. Bank Clothiers announced that it was buying the parent company of Eddie Bauer in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $825-million. The deal comes as Jos. A. Bank is being pursued by rival Men’s Wearhouse.
The TSX and New York markets registered solid gains Thursday despite a weak reading on U.S. retail sales during January as investors focused on strong earnings reports and major acquisition activity in the U.S. cable TV segment. The TSX closed above 14,000 for the first time in almost three years.