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At midday: Toronto stocks rise; BlackBerry pops

Three Blackberry Z10 devices are set up for a photo during a press event at a Rogers store in Toronto on Feb. 5, 2013.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

BlackBerry shares rose 5 per cent and the Toronto stock market ran up smartly Thursday as investors weighed mixed manufacturing data and concentrated on well-received earnings from Canadian corporate heavyweights including grocer Loblaw and coffee chain Tim Hortons.

The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 58.94 points to 14,178.67.

The Canadian dollar gained 0.03 of a cent to 90.27 cents (U.S.).

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U.S. indexes also charged ahead with the Dow Jones industrials up 72.86 points to 16,113.42, the Nasdaq composite index climbed 14.04 points to 4,251.99 while the S&P 500 index added 6.53 points to 1,835.28.

HSBC's preliminary version of its monthly China purchasing managers' index dipped to a seven-month low of 48.3 from January's 49.5 on a 100-point scale. Numbers below 50 show activity contracting.

But a private survey by Markit showed that manufacturing in the U.S. expanded at the fastest pace in almost four years in February. Its flash U.S. Manufacturing index rose to 56.7 from 53.7 in January.

The gold sector led TSX advancers, up 2.15 per cent while April gold fell $5.40 to $1,315 an ounce.

Facebook, the world's biggest social network announced a $19-billion purchase of the popular messaging service WhatsApp late Wednesday. Facebook shares slipped 2.2 per cent, to $66.56.

The bid also sent shares of BlackBerry higher as investors placed bets that the smartphone maker's own messaging platform has been undervalued.

BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM, was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp and other upstarts, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms. WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc.'s iOS platform, Google Inc.'s market-dominating Android operating system and with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.

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The TSX tech sector rose 1.6 per cent.

Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Private Client Group, said the Facebook deal was another example of increased merger and acquisition activity "We are seeing tons of M&A, it's almost every day now or every week," he said.

"That shows that CEOs are confident."

The consumer staples sector was up 1.45 per cent as Loblaw reported $183-million or 65 cents per share of quarterly adjusted net earnings, which was 10 cents above estimates. Revenue was up 2.3 per cent to $7.64-billion, also better than expected and its shares climbed $1.63 to $43.91.

Tim Hortons posted net earnings of 69 cents a share, up from 65 cents a year ago but below analyst estimates of 77 cents. Revenue was up 10.7 per cent to $898.5-million. The company also said it is raising its quarterly dividend by about 23 per cent and its shares gained $1.84 to $59.78.

The base metals segment was up 0.15 per cent with March copper erasing early losses and was unchanged at US$3.29 a pound.

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The utilities sector led decliners, down 1.26 per cent. TransCanada said Thursday its quarterly net income was $420-million or 59 cents per share, missing estimates by a penny. It also raised its quarterly dividend by four per cent to 48 cents a share and its shares declined 96 cents to $48.94.

The pipeline company's Keystone XL project suffered a major setback in a Nebraska court Wednesday as a judge overturned a state law that could have forced landowners to allow the pipeline through their property.

The energy sector was down slightly while the March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange slipped one cent to $103.30 a barrel.

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