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Toronto, Wall Street end the week higher as BlackBerry shares fall on earnings

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed sharply higher amid expectations that China will move to counter its economic slowdown, but an earnings report from Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd. failed to inspire investors.

The S&P/TSX composite index jumped 81.88 points to 14,260.72. The Canadian dollar fell 0.23 of a cent to 90.42 cents US.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen says he is focused on growing the struggling smartphone company and has no intention of moving its main operations outside Canada.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry, which has been restructuring and cutting costs in the last year, posted a fourth-quarter loss of US$423 million or 80 cents per share diluted in its latest quarter. This compared with a profit of $98 million or 19 cents per diluted share a year ago.

However, excluding one-time items, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) said it had an adjusted loss from continuing operations of $42 million or eight cents per share.

Analysts, on average, had expected a loss of 55 cents per share, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Shares in BlackBerry rose as much as six per cent in early trading, but then reversed course and closed down more than six per cent, or 65 cents, at $9.31.

Meanwhile, Wall Street was positive as the Dow Jones industrials gained 58.83 points to 16,323.06, the Nasdaq rose 4.53 points to 4,155.76 and the S&P 500 index added 8.58 points to 1,857.62.

Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist with TD Waterhouse, said many analysts expect 2014 to be "the year of convergence" between the TSX and the New York markets, as resource stocks see a bit of a lift.

"We're having a bit of a pop to the upside," he said. "There's not a lot of strong storylines, but it just reflects a little bit of a bounce from recent weakness, more than anything else."

Most sectors on the Toronto Stock Exchange were in the black, with gold and metals and mining stocks emerging as the leading advancers.

The gold contract took back 50 cents to US$1,294.30 an ounce, while oil gained 39 cents to US$101.67 a barrel. May copper contract gained five cents to US$3.04 a pound.

Overseas, expectations grew that China would inject more stimulus into its economy after seeing growth slow to its weakest level since the financial crisis five years ago.

China has set a target of 7.5 per cent economic growth this year but has said it is more concerned about ensuring sufficient new jobs are created than precisely meeting the GDP figure.

In the U.S., the latest figures showed that the economy there is progressing at a moderate pace.

The U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.3 per cent in February following a 0.2 per cent rise in January, helped by a surge in spending on utility bills. However, spending on durable goods such as autos dropped.

Another report found that consumer sentiment slipped in March from the previous month, as Americans said they were less likely to buy cars and homes because of slightly higher interest rates.

The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index dipped to 80 in March from 81.6 in February.

That's still about five points higher than last fall, when sentiment fell during the government shutdown. The index was 82.5 in December, leaving economists to conclude that the figures suggest confidence didn't take that big of a hit during the harsh winter.

The Canadian Press


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