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TSX up, pair of positive U.S. economic reports help alleviate rate concerns

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed modestly higher Thursday as positive U.S. economic data helped balance interest rate concerns.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 27.79 points to 14,361.83.

The Canadian dollar closed up 0.02 of a cent at 88.95 cents US. The currency tumbled almost nine-tenths of a cent Wednesday following an indication from U.S. Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen that American interest rates could be headed higher earlier than thought.

New York markets also shed early losses after the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index rebounded to 9.0 in March from a negative 6.3 reading in February, well above expectations for a reading of 3.5.

Also, the Conference Board’s leading indicator index of future economic performance increased 0.5 per cent in February, the largest amount in three months, following a slight 0.1 per cent rise in January.

Both reports indicated that any weather-related problems the U.S. economy is experiencing now will be short-lived.

The Dow Jones industrials jumped 108.88 points to 16,331.05, the Nasdaq gained 11.69 points to 4,319.29 and the S&P 500 index rose 11.24 points to 1,872.01.

Indexes had been lower earlier after Yellen signalled that the U.S. central bank could begin raising short-term rates six months after it halts its bond purchases around year’s end. The Fed has been cutting back on those purchases, a key element of stimulus that had kept long-term rates low, and on Wednesday said it would further taper purchases by another US$10 billion a month to $55 billion.

Allan Small, senior adviser at HollisWealth, said the main issue for traders is: Can the market and the U.S. economy handle a rise in interest rates?

"And if economic data continues to get better as we move along in 2014, I think the market is going to turn around and say, 'You know what, yes the U.S. economy can handle it,'" Small said.

Nervousness about Chinese growth continued to pummel copper prices, with the May contract falling six cents to US$2.93 a pound but the base metals sector turned around and was up 0.7 per cent. Copper prices have tumbled more than nine per cent since March 6.

There have been worries that commodity financing deals in China could unravel, resulting in widespread metals liquidation.

And on Thursday, Goldman Sachs lowered its 2014 gross domestic product forecast for China to 7.3 per cent from 7.6 per cent.

The financials group climbed 0.63 per cent.

Oil prices declined with the April contract, which expired Thursday, down 94 cents to US$99.43 a barrel. Most trading has moved to the May contract, which was down 27 cents at US$98.90 a barrel but the energy sector climbed 0.54 per cent.

The gold sector was ahead about 0.45 per cent even as hopes that the Ukraine crisis won't worsen weakened bullion prices for a fourth day and the April contract lost $10.80 to US$1,330.50 an ounce.

On the corporate front, Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK), which is fighting a hostile takeover attempt by Goldcorp. Inc. (TSX:G), says costs are going down and production is rising at its Canadian Malartic mine in northern Quebec. It added it expected to produce between 525,000 to 575,000 ounces of gold this year, up from 475,277 ounces in 2013. Its shares were unchanged at $7.59.

The Canadian Press


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