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Toronto stock market advances on earnings news, oilpatch acquisition

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Wednesday amid a major oilpatch acquisition along with earnings disappointments and dividend cuts in the resource sector.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 42.26 points to 14,119.73 as investors also considered another example of how the U.S. economy is being hit by severe winter weather.

The Canadian dollar fell 1.08 cents to 90.24 cents US.

New York indexes were lower as the U.S. Commerce Department reported that U.S. housing starts fell by 10 per cent to an annualized rate of 899,000 in January, down 16 per cent from December. In December, construction had fallen almost five per cent.

"The housing data was soft and, to a certain extent, I think the ongoing weather distortions will probably continue through another month because February hasn’t been any better in the U.S.," said Colin Cieszynski, senior markets analyst at CMC Markets.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 89.84 points to 16,040.56, the Nasdaq was 34.83 points lower at 4,237.95 and the S&P 500 lost 12.01 points to 1,828.75.

Markets also reacted negatively to the mid-afternoon release of the minutes from the January meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, where officials decided to further cut back on Fed bond purchases.

Officials discussed the need to stress to investors that the Fed’s key short-term interest rate would remain near zero but they couldn’t agree on how to modify their commitment to keep the rate near zero “well past” the time unemployment falls below 6.5 per cent. The rate is now 6.6 per cent.

On the earnings front, Sherritt International Corp. (TSX:S) reported a $38.1-million adjusted net loss in the fourth quarter, equal to 13 cents per share as it recognized a $466.8-million impairment loss related to the sale of its coal business. Analysts had expected Sherritt’s adjusted earnings would break even.

Sherritt also cut its quarterly cash dividend to one cent from about four cents per share. Its stock fell 41 cents or 11.95 per cent to $3.02.

Cargojet (TSX:CJT) shares jumped $3.72 or 25.91 per cent to $18.08 after the cargo carrier was awarded a domestic air cargo network services contract for the Canada Post group of companies, including Purolator’s national air cargo network.

The energy sector led advancers, up one per cent as the March crude contract in New York gained 88 cents to US$103.31 a barrel.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) jumped $1.45 or 3.7 per cent to C$40.63 as it said that it will pay $3.125 billion in cash to buy conventional oil and gas assets near its core areas in Western Canada in a major land deal with Devon Canada.

"And it’s a conventional pickup, which is not a bad thing for them because they have such a big piece of oilsands and this is more conventional oil so it probably balances out their production a bit more," Cieszynski said.

Financials were supportive with the group up 0.57 per cent.

The gold sector led decliners, down about two per cent as April bullion faded $4 to US$1,320.40 an ounce.

The base metals sector was down 0.69 per cent while March copper was unchanged at US$3.29 a pound.

The Canadian Press


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