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TSX moves higher as World Bank sees global economy picking up in 2014

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed with a solid gain Wednesday as a positive forecast on the global economy helped boost oil and metal prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 80.2 points to 13,772.58 while the Canadian dollar edged up 0.03 of a cent to 91.37 cents US.

The World Bank's Global Economics Prospects report said global growth is expected to rise from 2.4 per cent in 2013 to 3.2 per cent this year and 3.4 per cent in 2015.

"This should be the first year of synchronous global growth we've seen since the credit crisis," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.

"Europe isn’t going to be great, but our view is we have had a couple of quarters in which they have inched out of negative territory on the economic side."

Meanwhile, U.S. indexes were higher after a strong earnings report from Bank of America and a much better than expected reading on manufacturing in the U.S. Northeast.

The Empire manufacturing survey beat expectations, rising to 12.5 in January from a revised 2.2 in December. The survey showed significant improvements in balances for new orders, shipments and employee numbers.

The Dow Jones industrials jumped 108.08 points to 16,481.94, the Nasdaq advanced 31.86 points to 4,214.88 and the S&P 500 index rose 9.5 points to 1,848.38.

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank, earned US$3.44 billion or 29 cents a share in the October-to-December period, up from $732 million a year earlier. The showing beat forecasts by two cents amid a big improvement in loan loss provisions. It shares were up 38 cents to US$17.15.

Also supporting markets was a positive read on the economy by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Its latest regional survey, known as the Beige Book, said the American economy expanded at a moderate pace in December and retail sales gained in most of the 12 Fed districts.

The Fed added that there was some weather effect seen in retail sales.

The Beige Book also said that the U.S. real estate markets continued to improve, with price increases in seven of 12 Fed districts.

The Fed continued to be an overhang on markets as the central bank has started to reduce its bond purchasing program to $75 billion a month, down from $85 billion. But it has also said that further tapering would depend on economic performance, particularly jobs data.

Uncertainty about Fed intentions took off again after December jobs data released last Friday came in far below expectations.

Corporate earnings were the other big issue for markets as fourth- quarter data starts to come in. The S&P 500 rocketed about 30 per cent last year, helped in large measure by Fed stimulus. Investors now want to see if strong earnings and revenue can justify that gain and push stock prices higher.

The base metals component was the leading TSX advancer, up 3.7 per cent as the March copper contract added two cents to US$3.35 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) was $1.03 higher at C$27.32 and Thompson Creek Metals jumped 12 per cent to $3.16, on top of an 18-per cent gain Tuesday in the wake of an upgrade by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Rail stocks moved up alongside miners as Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) gained $1.44 to $59.73.

The tech sector gained 1.48 per cent with Open Text (TSX:OTC) ahead $2.19 to $99.23 while BlackBerry (TSX:BB) climbed 26 cents to $9.36.

The gold sector moved into positive territory, up one per cent even as the February bullion contract lost $7.10 to US$1,238.30 an ounce. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) climbed 29 cents to C$19.78.

Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK) says a hostile takeover bid for the company by Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) is "very low" and urged shareholders to hold off accepting the $2.6-billion offer until the board makes a recommendation.

Osisko shares have traded well above the $5.95 per share implied value of the Goldcorp offer since the stock-and-cash proposal was first announced Monday. On Wednesday, Osisko shares inched up two cents to C$6.25 while Goldcorp was six cents lower at $24.28.

Financials climbed 0.56 per cent with Power Corp. of Canada (TSX:POW) ahead 60 cents to $31.37 and Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) up 38 cents at $21.96.

The February crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained $1.58 to US$94.17 a barrel amid data showing a much bigger than expected 7.7-million barrel drop in supplies and the energy sector was up 0.39 per cent.

The consumer discretionary group was up 0.3 per cent and shares in Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG) were up 98 cents to $93.12 as the auto parts maker forecast between US$33.8 billion and US$35.5 billion of total sales this year, with about half of that generated from North America.

The company also said that investors could expect that Magna's now established pattern of annual dividend increases would continue.

The Canadian Press

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