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At the open: U.S. markets soar in wake of Crimea vote

Ukrainian servicemen guard a checkpoint near the village of Strelkovo in Kherson region, adjacent to Crimea, on March 16, 2014.


The Toronto stock market was higher Monday while U.S. indexes soared as traders looked beyond the weekend vote that saw an overwhelming number of Crimeans opt to break from Ukraine and join Russia.

Traders are now looking to see what level of sanctions will now be imposed against Russia for its part in backing the referendum. Western countries have refused to recognize the referendum while Russia does not recognize the new Ukrainian government.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 32.97 points to 14,260.63 as traders had widely anticipated the results of the referendum. The Canadian dollar was up 0.16 of a cent to 90.29 cents (U.S.).

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U.S. indexes surged amid data showing that U.S. factory output rebounded strongly in February. Factory production surged 0.8 per cent, nearly reversing a 0.9 per cent plunge in January that was due mainly to weather. February's gain was the largest in six months.

The Dow Jones industrials climbed 198.0 points to 16,263.69, the Nasdaq advanced 47.54 points to 4,292.94 and the S&P 500 index gained 18.36 points to 1,859.49.

European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to slap travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people from Russia and Crimea they have linked to the push for the secession.

The U.S. also imposed sanctions against Russian officials. President Barack Obama's executive order names seven Russian government officials. The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians, including former President Viktor Yanukovych and two Crimea-based separatist leaders.

Meanwhile, Imperial Oil is selling its interest in assets located in Boundary Lake, Cynthia/West Pembina, and Rocky Mountain House in Western Canada to Whitecap Resources Inc. for approximately $855-million. These assets produced about 15,000 oil-equivalent barrels per day in 2013 on a net before royalty basis. Production is split evenly between oil and gas. Imperial shares added three cents to $51.10.

And the Wall Street Journal reported that gas giant Encana is in advanced talks to sell its Wyoming natural-gas fields to private-equity firm Carlyle Group for about $2-billion. Encana has been looking to sell its holdings in the Jonah Field as it shifts its focus away from natural gas to drilling for more valuable oil and natural-gas liquids. Its shares ran up 21 cents to $22.67.

The TSX base metals sector was the leading advancer, up 1.05 per cent as copper rose after a string of negative data from China sent prices dropping by eight per cent last week. The May copper contract in New York rose one cent to $2.96 (U.S.) a pound.

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The energy sector gained 0.3 per cent while April crude dipped 15 cents to $98.74 a barrel.

The industrials and financial sectors also lifted the Toronto market.

The gold sector led decliners, down 1.5 per cent as gold prices edged lower after nervous investors seeking safety pushed prices ahead last week. The May contract in New York declined $1.70 to $1,377.30 an ounce.

Traders also looked ahead to Wednesday when the U.S. Federal Reserve makes its next interest rate announcement.

Traders will be looking for any change in a gauge the Fed is using for interest rate guidance – the jobless rate. Generally, markets aren't expecting a rate hike from the Fed until the middle of next year at the earliest.

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