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At the open: TSX little changed as ECB chops key rate Add to ...

The Toronto stock market was little changed Thursday as traders waded through a heavy slate of Canadian earnings news.

Markets responded enthusiastically to a move by the European Central Bank to cut its key rate and stronger than expected U.S. economic growth. The ECB cut its key rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent from 0.5 per cent following a string of weak economic reports.

The S&P/TSX composite index added 1.14 points to 13,381.55, dragged lower by gold and energy stocks.

Canadian dollar was down 0.22 of a cent to 95.77 cents US as the greenback strengthened in the wake of the ECB decision and data showing that U.S. gross domestic product rose at an annualized rate of 2.8 per cent in the quarter, against the two per cent rise that economists had expected.

U.S. indexes were higher as traders also awaited the most anticipated initial public offering since Facebook debuted on the Nasdaq in 2012.

Twitter starts trading Thursday on the NYSE (at 10 a.m. EST) following an initial public offering that valued the social network at US$18 billion. Twitter set a price of $26 per share for its initial public offering on Wednesday evening and will begin trading under the ticker symbol “TWTR.”

The Dow Jones industrials ahead 34.74 points to 15,781.623, the Nasdaq was down 3.02 points to 3,928.92 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 1.78 points to 1,172.27.

Traders also looked to the release Friday of the U.S. government’s employment report for October.

The GDP report and the jobs data will help the Federal Reserve decide whether to start cutting back on its US$85 billion of monthly bond purchases later this year.

Meanwhile, Canadian earnings news spanned most TSX sectors, including telecom, financial and resource companies.

BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) adjusted net earnings in the third quarter rose by seven per cent to $584 million, which amounted to 75 cents per share, which was two cents below estimates. And BCE’s revenue rose 2.3 per cent from a year earlier to just under $5.1 billion, slightly below estimates of $5.16 billion and its shares lost 19 cents to $45.31.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) is hiking its quarterly dividend by 60 per cent to 20 cents a share. It also expects to increase annual cash flow by 14 per cent in 2014 to $8.7 billion as production output grows by seven per cent over this year’s level.

Cash flow from operations rose to $2.4 billion or $2.26 per share in the third quarter, beating estimates of $2.17 a share, and its shares gained 32 cents to $32.81.

Tim Hortons Inc. (TSX:THI) posted net income of $113.9 million or 75 cents per share in the third quarter, both up from the same time last year but short of analyst estimates. The restaurant operator’s revenues also grew, rising by 2.9 per cent to $825.3 million. Analysts were looking for 78 cents per share of net income, 77 cents per share of adjusted earnings and $824.5 million of revenue and its shares were off 11 cents to $62.49.

And insurer Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) said that its core earnings for the quarter were $704 million, up sharply from $570 million a year earlier. Net income came in at $1.034 billion, compared with a net loss of $211 million a year ago and its shares climbed 48 cents to $19.19 after hitting a new 52-week high of $19.21.

After the close Wednesday, Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF) reported a quarterly loss of $520 million or 84 cents a share as it wrote down and closed the sale of its U.S. annuity business. That compared with a profit of $383 million, or 64 cents per share, a year ago. Ex-items, it earned an operating net profit from continuing operations of $422 million or 69 cents per diluted share for the quarter, beating estimates by five cents a share. Sun Life advanced 62 cents to $36.05.

On the TSX, tech stocks led advancers with patent company Wi-Lan (TSX;WIN) up four cents to $3.41.

Industrials also advanced with Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) ahead six cents to $4.72.

Commodity prices were mixed and the gold sector led decliners, down 0.65 per cent while December bullion fell $10.80 to US$1,307 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) faded 33 cents to $25.92.

The energy sector was down 0.6 per cent while December crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange declined 38 cents to US$94.42 a barrel. Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) gave back 37 cents to C$45.07.

The base metals sector was little changed with December copper up a penny at US$3.24 a pound.

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