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Toronto stock market climbs, loonie surges on positive Canadian GDP data

TORONTO - Another sign that Canada's economy is doing better than expected and a strong rally in energy stocks helped push the Toronto stock market higher Monday as it entered one of the quietest trading weeks of the year.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 48.10 points to 13,447.70, while the loonie jumped 0.33 of a cent to 94.24 cents US.

Statistics Canada reported that the economy grew by 0.3 per cent in October, higher than consensus estimate of 0.2 per cent and on par with September's increase. The latest reading marked the fourth consecutive month of growth for the country's gross domestic product.

The figures were a welcome sign in what is expected be a muted week for the TSX as it heads into 2013's second last week of trading. The Toronto exchange is scheduled to close early Christmas Eve and will be shut down on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

New York is shuttered just for Dec. 25.

On Monday, U.S. indexes were positive as the Dow Jones industrials surged 73.47 points to close at a record-high 16,294.61. The Nasdaq jumped 44.16 points to 4,148.90 and the S&P 500 index gained 9.67 points to 1,827.99.

The Dow was supported by tech giant Apple Inc.(Nasdaq:AAPL), which announced that it is teaming up with China Mobile. Apple said China's largest carrier will begin selling the iPhone 5S and 5C models beginning next month.

The iPhone already is available in China through two smaller carriers but this latest agreement links it with a bigger network and state-owned China Mobile Ltd.'s marketing power. Shares in Apple closed up $21.07 at US$570.09.

Fred Ketchen, ScotiaMcLeod's director of equity trading, said the lift in North American markets may indicate that investors are finding comfort in the upbeat economic news.

"The economic standpoint is not upsetting. It's not roariously healthy, but there is a certain calmness to it," said Ketchen.

"I just think there's a fair amount of comfort of where we are economically, where we are politically and where we are when it comes to the markets. I don't expect any disasters."

The outlook south of the border also painted a rosy picture. The U.S. Commerce Department reported that Americans increased their spending in November by the most in five months as incomes edged up modestly. Consumer spending rose 0.5 per cent last month compared with October, when spending had risen 0.4 per cent. It was the best showing since June, with the gain driven by a jump in spending on durable goods such as autos.

How much consumers spend is carefully watched because it accounts for as much as 70 per cent of U.S. economic activity.

Strong economic news helped the U.S. Federal Reserve decide last week to cut its asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion a month beginning in January. The stimulus has kept interest rates low and helped make stocks more attractive to investors.

In corporate news, Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (TSX:PRE) said it was selling its five per cent stake and transportation rights in a Colombian oil pipeline to a consortium led by a private equity unit of Franklin Templeton for US$385 million in cash.

Pacific Rubiales acquired its stake in the OCENSA pipeline when it bought Petrominerales Ltd. in a $1.6-billion deal that was announced in September. Proceeds from the sale will be applied to the Petrominerales transaction and reduce the cost for Pacific Rubiales to about C$1.2 billion. Its shares closed up two cents, or 0.11 per cent, at $18.76 on the TSX.

Meanwhile, shares in Reitmans (Canada) Ltd. (TSX:RET.A) were nearly nine per cent higher after Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (TSX:FFH) disclosed that it has increased its stake in the struggling retailer to 13.8 per cent from just under 10 per cent. Reitmans' shares close up 57 cents, or 8.98 per cent, at $6.92.

Reitmans is a retailer of mainly women's apparel operating under such banners as Reitmans, Smart Set, RW&CO., Penningtons, Addition-Elle and Thyme Maternity.

French railway operator SNCF has exercised an option to buy an additional 30 Regio 2N double-deck electric passenger trains from Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). The order is valued at US$379 million and brings the total number of units that SNCF has ordered to 159, Bombardier announced Monday from Berlin, where its rail division has its global headquarters.

Commodities were mostly lower as February crude fell 41 cents to US$98.91 a barrel.

However, energy stocks helped boost the TSX, rising by 0.36 per cent. Shares in EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) climbed 18 cents to C$19.17.

The info tech sector was the leading advancer, up by 0.63 per cent, as shares in BlackBerry (TSX:BB) rose 3.10 per cent, or 24 cents, to $7.98.

Gold prices lost $6.70 to US$1,197 an ounce, and the sector was the leading decliner on the TSX, falling by 0.71 per cent. Shares in Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) dipped 12 cents to C$17.72.

March copper was unchanged at US$3.31 a pound.

The Canadian Press


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