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At the open: S&P 500 hits record high, but TSX still struggles

Specialist trader Michael O'Connor gives a price to traders on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, April 3, 2013.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Both the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 hit fresh record intraday highs at the start of trading today, aided by surprisingly strong Chinese imports data last month and signals from the Federal Reserve that its aggressive bond buying program will stay intact for now.

The TSX was also higher, but its gains were a little more subdued because of its heavy resource weighting. Major commodities were lower again today, led by a nearly $10, or 0.5 per cent, drop in gold. Goldman Sachs today downgraded its price forecast for the precious metal for the second time in less than two months. Commenting that "conviction in holding gold is quickly waning," Goldman now forecasts an average price of $1,545 an ounce in 2013 and $1,350 in 2014.

In early trading, the S&P 500 was up nearly 7 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 1,575 after hitting a high of 1,576. That surpassed its previous record of 1,573.89 from the start of this month.

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The Dow was up 44 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 14,717, and had climbed to a record intraday of 14,747 in the opening minutes of trading.

The TSX was up 30 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,514 – still well below levels from the start of April.

European markets were also strong, with the FTSE 100 up 0.7 per cent and Germany's Dax up 1.2 per cent.

China surprised markets overnight by announcing the country swung to a trade deficit in March, as imports surged 14.1 per cent and exports rose at a smaller amount than economists had forecast. Expectations were that the country would report a surplus of $14.7-billion. While the report added to evidence that China's domestic consumption is strengthening, some questioned the accuracy of the data.

There's little in the way of economic figures in the U.S. or Canada today, but the U.S. Federal Reserve jolted market players ahead of the opening bell by releasing its March 19-20 policy meeting early. The minutes were to be released this afternoon.

Reports suggested that the minutes were prematurely released to about 100 Congressional staffers and trade lobbyists on Tuesday, and that the Fed has contacted securities regulators to look into the matter.

The minutes showed clear divisions among Fed members over how much longer the aggressive bond buying measures should last. Most thought it was appropriate to continue the asset purchases at current levels through midyear, however, which provided some comfort to markets.

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Later today, President Barack Obama will submit his proposed 2014 budget to Congress. Opposition from Republicans means the budget document stands little chance of passing, but it will set the stage for talks on a broader debt-reducing plan to come.

Among stocks moving on news today was Yahoo Inc. It rose about 1 per cent to fresh multi-year highs after Bloomberg reported the Internet giant was talking with Apple Inc. over ways to collaborate more closely on mobile software.

Bombardier shares were up 0.5 per cent. Porter Airlines Inc. could announce the purchase of up to 30 Bombardier C Series aircraft later this morning, reports suggest.

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About the Author
Investment Editor

Darcy Keith is The Globe and Mail's Investment Editor. He has been a business journalist since 1992 and joined the Report on Business in 2010 from Yahoo! Canada, where he was the senior editor of finance. More

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