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Trader Michael Capolino, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, May 19, 2014. (Richard Drew/AP)
Trader Michael Capolino, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, May 19, 2014. (Richard Drew/AP)

The close: Markets advance on commodities, lack of bad news Add to ...

The Toronto stock market finished higher Monday, driven by mostly stronger commodity prices amid little in the way of economic news besides some mixed data from China over the weekend.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 32.31 points to 14,871.21. The Canadian dollar was up 0.19 of a cent to 91.68 cents (U.S.).

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Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investment, said no news looked like good news for North American markets as traders renewed their confidence in equities, with little in the way of negative signs that would persuade them to do otherwise.

“It’s an environment where there is good momentum,” Adatia said. “There is not very much in terms of negative comments coming out of anywhere.”

Higher commodities boosted the energy and gold sectors on the TSX as July crude in New York climbed $1.75 to $104.41 (U.S.) a barrel. August bullion gained $1.40 to $1,253.90 an ounce, while July copper fell a penny to $3.04 a pound.

On Wall Street, U.S. markets had been expected to come down slightly after touching record highs last week. Instead, the Dow Jones industrials advanced 18.82 points to 16,943.10 and the Nasdaq rose 14.84 points to 4,336.24. The S&P 500 index was ahead by 1.83 points to 1,951.27.

China reported on Sunday that export growth accelerated in May although there was a dip in imports.

The world’s second-largest economy said exports rose seven per cent in dollar terms, up from a 0.9 per cent increase in April and rather large slumps in February and March. Imports declined 1.6 per cent in May after inching up 0.8 per cent in April. Private sector analysts say the Chinese economy will likely slow as the impact of mini-stimulus efforts fade.

The data came as traders continued to digest a move last week by the European Central Bank to deal with the threat of deflation and give some lift to a tepid economic recovery in the euro zone. The ECB has announced that it will be cutting its lending rate to 0.15 per cent from 0.25 per cent and dropping its overnight deposit rate to minus 0.1 per cent from zero.

Investors welcomed the news. They had been counting on the ECB to take action to save the euro zone from falling into a deflationary spiral that would choke off growth.

Adatia said the move helped send positive ripples throughout world markets.

“Last week was the trigger point in my mind. If the ECB didn’t do anything there would be a negative tone in the market,” he said.

Adatia expects markets to continue their upward trajectory barring any major negative news, like a sharp decline in the Canadian housing market, or an increase in tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

On the real estate front, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said housing starts increased to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 198,324 in May, up from 196,687 in April. The results were better than 185,000 economists had been expecting, according to Thomson Reuters.

Meanwhile, U.S. meat producer Tyson Foods Inc. said it has won a bidding war for Hillshire Brands, maker of Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot dogs. Tyson Foods, which had been fighting with Pilgrim’s Pride for Hillshire, values the tentative deal at $8.55-billion (U.S.). The deal still needs to meet several conditions, including approval from Hillshire’s board of directors.

Pharmaceutical company Merck also announced it will spend nearly $4-billion for Idenix Pharmaceuticals with a per-share bid that more than triples the hepatitis C drug developer’s last closing price. Drug companies have been racing to test new and potentially lucrative treatments for hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease that causes liver damage and is expected to become more common as the U.S. population ages.

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