Stocks shrugged off disappointing U.S. consumer confidence figures to post modest advances in mid-session trading on North American exchanges.
The TSX composite index rose 11 points to 12,827, led by material stocks as the spot market price for gold advanced $7.50 (U.S.) to $1,662 an ounce. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 62 points to 13,944 and the more broadly based S&P 500 gained 4.8 points to 1,505, while the technology heavy Nasdaq was little changed.
Stocks traded against a mixed economic backdrop. The U.S. Conference Board index of consumer confidence slumped to a 14-month low of 58.6 in January from 66.7, a drop attributed to the recent increases in payroll taxes as part of the U.S. fiscal cliff negotiations.
The slump in confidence suggests lower growth in the first quarter, but analysts cautioned that the downbeat mood will likely be temporary. "Looking forward, confidence and consumer spending should improve as the year goes on," predicted Amna Asaf, economist at Capital Economics, in a note to clients.
In other economic news, the Case-Shiller housing price index for November increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.63 per cent, suggesting the U.S. residential market continues to be on a slow mend.
Turning to individual stocks in Toronto, Zenn Motor Co. nearly doubled to $1.25, up 92 per cent, after having trading as high as $1.67. The company reported positive preliminary results from testing of its electric storage technology.
Research in Motion continued to lose ground, dropping another 6.7 per cent on top of a similar sized loss Monday, ahead of the company's release of its new Blackberry 10 smart phone on Wednesday. Many traders are taking profits on the high flying Canadian technology company, which traded for as low as $6.10 in September and had been one of the best performing Canadian stocks over the past four months.
Canadian Pacific soared 3.7 per cent to $116.94 after the company reported that fourth-quarter profits rose 15 per cent, offering investors hope that the underperforming railroad continues to turn around.
The gold sector led advancers on the TSX, marching upward in step with the higher prices for the precious metal. Among more actively traded issues, Goldcorp rallied 1.9 per cent, Agnico-Eagle 0.9 per cent and Yamana Gold 1 per cent.