TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed with a strong advance Tuesday as key commodity prices touched their highest levels in weeks.
The S&P/TSX composite index lifted 102.12 points to 14,372.45, while the Canadian dollar moved 0.39 of a cent higher to 91.56 cents US.
Since last week, the resource-weighted TSX has been largely motivated by concerns about the fragility of the global economy and speculation that stock markets could be headed for a pullback. By Tuesday, those worries appeared to have largely subsided, with the TSX mining sector one of the biggest gainers, up 1.9 per cent.
Gold stocks were stronger as the price of bullion climbed to levels it hasn't reached for two weeks, motivated by weakness in the U.S. dollar and further unrest in Ukraine. On Monday, pro-Russian separatists seized a provincial administration building in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk and proclaimed the region independent, saying they will hold a referendum on the issue.
The June gold contract rose $10.80 to US$1,309.10 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) rose 40 cents to $20.54 while Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) lifted 37 cents to $27.53.
Crude oil was also on the rise, reaching its highest closing price in a month as May crude gained $2.12 to settle at US$102.56 a barrel. May copper moved ahead 1.2 cents to US$3.05 a pound.
Wall Street was relatively flat after three days of declines. The Dow Jones industrials increased 10.27 points to 16,256.14, while the Nasdaq was ahead 33.24 points to 4,112.99 and The S&P 500 index lifted 6.92 points to 1,851.96.
After the bell, aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. released its quarterly financial results, easily beating analyst expectations on adjusted earnings per share. The company said it lost US$178 million in the first quarter and revenue was disappointing.
However, excluding charges to idle capacity at aluminum smelters and mills, Alcoa said it would have earned nine cents per share on revenue of $5.45 billion, compared with analyst expectations of five cents a share on revenue of $5.57 billion, according to FactSet.
Investors are eagerly anticipating the latest financial reports from big U.S. companies in the coming weeks, said Jennifer Dowty, associate portfolio manager at CIBC Global Asset Management. But she said it will be about more than just the headline numbers.
"It's not so much the reported earnings, but more so the outlook that is the focus," Dowty said.
"If we see some disappointments, it's not going to be a large surprise. I think a lot of management teams are going to be blaming the weather."
Intense winter storms pounded much of North America in the fourth quarter. The harsh weather continued into the new year and has been blamed for everything from lacklustre retail sales to slower construction.
Canadian companies like Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL) and Cogeco Inc. (TSX:CCA) are scheduled to report on Wednesday. American financial services companies Walls Fargo and JP Morgan issue results on Friday.
In economic data, the International Monetary Fund nudged its 2014 economic growth forecast for Canada upward one-tenth of a point to 2.3 per cent this year, while leaving its 2015 estimate for Canada at 2.4 per cent growth.
Two reports on Canadian construction activity put a damper on hopes that activity may have picked up last month. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported that March housing starts dropped to a seasonally adjusted rate of 156,823 units, down from 190,639 a year earlier.
Statistics Canada said the value of building permits â€” which are required before construction begins â€” dropped 11.6 per cent to $6.1 billion in February.
Note to readers: CORRECTS para 8 to remove reference to Alcoa being Dow component