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Toronto stock exchange nears six-year high as gold stocks gain traction

TORONTO - Canada's main stock market climbed to levels it hasn't touched in nearly six years on Wednesday, pushed higher by a major deal between two Canadian gold companies.

By the afternoon, Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index lifted 30.17 points to 14,410.72, which is around the height it reached in early May 2008. But it's still short of the all-time TSX high of 15,073 set in June 2008.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.04 of a cent to 90.69 cents US.

Much of the motivation came from the TSX gold sector which was spurred by a deal from mining heavyweight Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI), which wants to acquire a 50 per cent stake in the mining and exploration assets of Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK).

The offer implies Osisko is worth about $3.4 billion and its shares jumped 5.5 per cent to $7.26, as the heaviest traded stock on the TSX with 32 million shares. Yamana stock dropped 28 cents to $9.43 on the TSX.

A higher price for bullion also supported widespread strength among other TSX-listed gold stocks. The June gold contract gained $10.80 to close at $1,290.80 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On Wall Street, markets flirted with negative territory as investors digested new data on U.S. jobs figures that could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates earlier than anticipated.

The Dow Jones Industrials inched ahead 0.51 of a point to 16,533.12 while the Nasdaq slid 3.91 points to 4,264.13. The S&P 500 index lifted 1.33 points to 1,886.85.

A survey from payroll processor ADP said that U.S. companies hired at a faster clip in March. Private employers added 191,000 jobs in March, another positive sign for the jobs market ahead of the U.S. non-farm payrolls report and Canadian labour force survey due on Friday.

"(The ADP report) has... shifted speculation back toward a more hawkish Fed that could start to raise interest rates sooner rather than later after tapering ends later this year," said Colin Cieszynski, a senior markets analyst at CMC Markets, in a note to investors.

Positive sentiment about the U.S. economy had been growing this week after an improvement in the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for March and a slight uptick in U.S. construction data on Tuesday.

But investors shouldn't get too excited about the improved monthly figures because the U.S. economy will likely face more volatility this year, said Kash Pashootan, a portfolio manager and vice-president at First Avenue Advisory, a Raymond James company,

"The market tends to overreact to a single data point, and today I believe is another example of that," he said.

"To me, it's premature to (revise the outlook) on where monetary policy is going, just based on this one report."

In commodities, crude continued to trade below US$100 per barrel. Oil for May delivery was down 38 cents to US$99.36.

Copper prices moved back to more normal levels after a magnitude-8.2 earthquake off the coast of Chile — a major producer of the metal — sent prices soaring to their highest levels since early March. The May copper contract was up 1.1 cents at US$3.05 a pound.

Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) shares declined nearly three per cent after the fertilizer producer said it expects only a slim profit in the first quarter, just above the break-even point.

Analysts have been expecting Agrium's profit for the first quarter of 2014 to be well above break-even, although down from a year ago. The Calgary-based company said several factors have worked against it, including a slow start to the spring planting season. Its shares dropped $1.57 to $105.97.

BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB) says it won't renew a licensing agreement with U.S. telecom giant T-Mobile when it expires on April 25, which means T-Mobile won't sell BlackBerry products after inventories run out. BlackBerry shares were up nine cents to $9.03.

Meanwhile, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX:MDA) says it has suspended work on ground infrastructure for its communication satellite program in Ukraine due to the country's political instability. MDA expects the work to be delayed from four to six months. Costs associated with the stoppage are yet to be determined. MDA shares were down five cents to $88.74.

The Canadian Press

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