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The Globe and Mail

Loonie slightly higher at close as pace of growth keeps traders cautious

Canadian dollars shown with U.S dollars.


The Toronto stock market closed the session higher on Thursday as energy stocks led a broad climb that widely ignored pessimism about the economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 77.09 points at 11,858.13, in a session rife with earnings reports from Canadian companies. The TSX Venture Exchange climbed 7.37 points to 1,193.05.

The Canadian dollar was at $1.0081 (U.S.), up 0.27 of a cent.

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Statistics Canada reported that the country's trade performance with the rest of the world worsened for the third consecutive month in June.

The trade deficit nearly doubled to $1.8-billion (Canadian) during the month, from an upwardly revised $954-million in May.

The TSX energy sector was the top gainer, up 1.8 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources shares gained six per cent, or $1.82, to $31.39, after the major energy producer announced it was cutting 2012 spending some $680-million or about 10 per cent.

The September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange moved a penny higher to $93.36 (U.S.) a barrel.

"We seem to be rallying, albeit slowly, on the backs of possible central banks easing or stimulus," said Allan Small, senior adviser at DWM Securities.

"I think that's why the markets seem to be (moving) up. The volume is pretty low for a regular summer."

On Wall Street, markets barely budged. The relative quiet is partly due to a lack of major developments in the European debt crisis or decisive news on the U.S. economy. Another reason is simply because traders like to clear out for vacation in August.

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The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 10.45 points to 13,165.19 and the broader S&P increased 0.58 points to 1,402.80. The Nasdaq gained 7.39 points to 3,018.64.

The U.S. Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, a level consistent with modest gains in hiring. The less volatile four-week average rose by 2,250 to 368,250 in the week ended Aug. 4.

September copper moved up 3.5 cents to $3.43 a pound while December gold increased $4.20 to settle at $1,620.20 an ounce.

In the retail sector, supermarket operator Metro Inc. says profits were $144.4-million (Canadian) in its fiscal third quarter, above analyst estimates. Revenue for the quarter was up 3.8 per cent to $3.7-billion. Shares were up $1.61 to $58.13.

Tim Hortons Inc. posted a 13.1 per cent increase in earnings to $108.1-million or 69 cents per share, up from $95.5-million or 58 cents per share in the same year-earlier period. Revenue rose 11.8 per cent to $785.6-million. Its shares dropped $1.44 to $50.84.

Canadian Tire says profits climbed more than 25 per cent to $133.7-million or $1.63 per diluted share in the second quarter. That's an increase from $105.8-million or $1.29 per diluted share a year ago. Revenue grew to $2.99-billion, up from $2.57-billion. Shares were up $2.47 to $78.23.

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Quebecor Inc. net profit rose 21 per cent to $67-million, or $1.05 per basic share. The company's overall revenue increased by $33-million to just under $1.09-billion. The company's shares were down $1.50 to $33.75.

In financials, an index that was down 0.01 per cent, interest rate conditions have left a mark on some Canadian firms.

Manulife Financial Corp. posted a $300-million net loss in the second quarter, citing challenging equity markets and interest rate environment. The loss was in stark contrast to the $1.2-billion profit it posted in the previous quarter and a $490-million profit in the second quarter of 2011. Losses were 18 cents per share, down from a profit of 26 cents per share a year earlier. After the report, its shares were up six cents to $10.89.

Sun Life Financial Inc. reported late Wednesday that second-quarter profits dropped 88 per cent to $51-million, or nine cents per diluted share, from $408-million, or 68 cents per diluted share, in the 2011 period. Revenue grew to $6.05-billion from $5.15-billion, largely due to gains in the fair value of certain financial instruments. Its shares dropped 17 cents to $21.60.

Concerns about the global economy remain in focus despite an upswing in optimism earlier this week.

In China, hopes are that monetary authorities will do more to shore up economic growth in the world's second largest economy.

With inflation in China falling to 1.8 per cent in July from the previous month's 2.2 per cent, expectations are rising that Beijing may ease monetary policy to boost economic growth, which has slowed sharply this year. Separate figures on industrial production and retail sales confirmed the slowdown.

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