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Miners push Toronto stock market higher, traders digest mixed bag of data

TORONTO - Rising mining stocks helped push the Toronto stock market to a three-year high Friday as traders digested a generally positive bag of economic indicators.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 53.11 points at 14,054.7 after closing above the 14,000 threshold Thursday for the first time since April 2011.

The Canadian dollar closed down 0.05 of a cent at 91.05 cents US even as manufacturing shipments declined 0.9 per cent in December, the first month that has happened since August.

New York indexes turned higher after the latest reading on U.S. consumer confidence, the University of Michigan's index, was unchanged at 81.2. A slight drop had been expected. Another report showed that harsh winter weather led to U.S. factory output falling by 0.8 per cent in January.

"(Weather) is a big deal and it will have an impact on the numbers," said Gareth Watson, vice-president, investment management and research, at Richardson GMP Ltd.

"But the extent that you can blame the weather is still up for debate. It’s a factor but is that the overriding factor? And I think you won’t really figure that out until we get a month where there hasn’t been interference from the weather."

The Dow Jones industrials jumped 126.8 points to 16,154.39, the Nasdaq was 3.36 points higher at 4,244.03 and the S&P 500 index rose 8.8 points to 1,838.63.

Elsewhere, China’s consumer prices rose 2.5 per cent over a year earlier in January, unchanged from December. Traders found the inflation data encouraging because it leaves the Chinese government room to stimulate the world’s second-biggest economy.

Other data showed that economic growth across the eurozone was stronger than expected as gross domestic product grew by 0.3 per cent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter. That adds up to an annualized rate of about 1.2 per cent. Analysts had been looking for fourth-quarter growth of 0.2 per cent.

The TSX gold sector gained about two per cent as April bullion advanced $18.50 to US$1,318.60 an ounce.

The base metals component was ahead 0.83 per cent, with March copper up one cent at US$3.26 a pound.

Financials were up 0.51 per cent following a number of positive earnings reports this week from insurers.

The energy sector declined 0.19 per cent. Oil prices declined in the wake of the U.S. factory data as March crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed down five cents to US$100.30 a barrel.

On the earnings front, Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $267 million as it recognized lower values for some of its assets. Ex-items, the pipeline and energy services company earned 44 cents a share, two cents short of estimates and its shares added 45 cents to C$47.82.

Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (TSX:BAM.A) posted fourth-quarter net income of US$850 million, or $1.08 per share. Funds from operations increased to US$1.03 billion, or $1.59 per share, more than double a year earlier and its shares gained 47 cents to C$43.25.

And sports equipment company Bauer Performance Sports Ltd. (TSX:BAU) has signed a deal to buy the baseball and softball business of Easton-Bell Sports for US$330 million. Bauer shares slipped 33 cents to $13.85.

Strong earnings news and positive economic data pushed the TSX up 1.95 per cent this past week while the Dow industrials surged 2.28 per cent.

The Canadian Press

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