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The close: TSX advances as telecom stocks pop

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Toronto stock market got off to a strong start to September on Tuesday as improved manufacturing data from China pushed miners higher while the telecom sector benefited from corporate dealmaking.

The S&P/TSX composite index ran ahead 86.6 points to 12,740.5, led by a surge of almost five per cent in the telecom sector after U.S. giant Verizon Communications Inc. said it was no longer interested in entering the Canadian wireless market. Verizon had announced Monday that it was paying US$130-billion for a 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless owned by British cellphone carrier Vodafone.

Shares in Canada's top three wireless companies rose as result, with Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) up $3 or 7.2 per cent to $44.59, BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) climbed $1.67 or 3.87 per cent to $44.86 and Telus Corp. (TSX:T) jumped $1.81 or 5.54 per cent to $34.50.

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Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp. announced it was buying Nokia Corp.'s lineup of smartphones and a portfolio of patents and services for $7.2-billion (U.S.). The purchase increased buyout hopes for BlackBerry (TSX:BB), sending the Canadian smartphone maker's stock up 11 cents to $10.75.

BlackBerry is in the midst of a review of its "strategic alternatives," which could result in the sale of its operations or an agreement to take the company private, though so far no potential bidders have publicly emerged.

The Canadian dollar was unchanged at 94.97 cents US as the U.S. dollar appreciated on a much better than expected reading on American manufacturing.

U.S. indexes gave up early strong gains as nervousness about a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria grew during the session and trumped data showing much greater than expected expansion in the American manufacturing sector during August.

The Dow Jones industrials came down from a 123-point jump as traders weighed the chances of President Barack Obama getting congressional approval for punishing Syria for a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21 that U.S. intelligence says killed 1,429 people.

A vote could take place next week after lawmakers return from holidays Sept. 9.

"We're not out of the woods yet," observed Kash Pashootan, vice-president and portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory, a Raymond James company.

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"With these geopolitical fears, they tend to pass. But while they're happening, it's difficult to see past them because it is pretty scary stuff when you're talking about war."

The Dow Jones industrials closed up 23.65 points to 14,833.96, as the latest reading on the U.S. manufacturing sector showed stronger than expected expansion in August. The Institute for Supply Management's index rose to 55.7 from 53 in July, much stronger than the 54 reading that had been expected.

The Nasdaq gained 22.74 points to 3,612.61 and the S&P 500 index was up 6.8 points at 1,639.77.

The Microsoft deal came down a day after Verizon announced its deal with Vodafone. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said Tuesday the company "never really seriously looked" at entering the Canadian market and that any plan is "off the table at this point."

Over the last few months, the spectre of competition in the Canadian wireless market from the big U.S. telco had pushed Canadian telecom stocks well off their 52-week highs.

On the commodity markets, copper prices ran ahead following two reports – both released Monday – that showed China's manufacturing sector improved last month after prolonged weakness. China is the world's biggest consumer of copper, which itself is an economic barometer as it is used in so many applications.

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December copper got extra lift from the strong U.S. manufacturing data and gained seven cents to $3.30 a pound, sending the base metals sector up 2.5 per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) advanced 86 cents to $27.38.

The energy sector gained 0.75 per cent as oil prices shed early losses after the release of the ISM data. The October crude contract closed up 89 cents to $108.54 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) rose 67 cents to $36.17.

Gold prices reversed early losses with the December contract climbing $15.90 to $1,412 an ounce and the gold sector rose 0.7 per cent. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) gained 32 cents to C$31.42.

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