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Earnings news, miners support TSX, traders cautious amid worsening Ukraine crisis

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Thursday amid positive earnings news and despite rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 20.86 points at 14,554.25.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.03 of a cent to 90.68 cents US.

New York's Dow industrials was unchanged from Wednesday at 16,501.65 as traders took in positive earnings reports from General Motors and Caterpillar.

The Nasdaq gained 21.37 points to 4,148.34 after earnings from Facebook and Apple blew past expectations, while the S&P 500 index gained 3.22 points to 1,878.61.

In Canada, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (TSX:POT) posted quarterly net income of US$340 million or 40 cents a share, compared with 63 cents per share, or US$556 million, in the same period last year. The company’s guidance was for between 30 and 35 cents per share and its shares gained 67 cents or 1.75 per cent to C$39.02.

General Motors says first-quarter profit fell 86 per cent to $125 million or six cents a share as a string of recalls dragged down earnings. Excluding one-time items, GM made 29 cents per share, far above analyst estimates of three cents per share. GM shares lost early momentum to move down 20 cents to US$34.19.

Christian Mayes, an industrials analyst with Edward Jones, said the stock decline could be due to investor concerns about GM's U.S. market share, which could suffer because of the recalls.

Caterpillar’s first-quarter earnings climbed five per cent to US$922 million, or $1.44 per share. Earnings totalled $1.61 per share, excluding restructuring costs. Total revenue was nearly flat at $13.24 billion. Analysts forecast earnings of $1.21 per share on $13.09 billion in revenue. Caterpillar shares were up $1.91 to $105.29.

"What it shows is domestically, (U.S.) economic growth was about two per cent last year, this year picking up somewhat and I think you’re seeing this reflected at an early stage with some of the companies like Caterpillar that will be natural beneficiaries of this," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.

"It also reflects the fact that even though you have slower growth in China, it is slower growth, not a terribly hard landing."

Shares in Apple Inc. jumped 8.2 per cent to $567.77 after the company announced Wednesday that it was increasing its dividend by eight per cent to $3.29 per share and that it will buy back an additional US$30 billion of its stock. Quarterly earnings rose seven per cent to $10.2 billion, or $11.62 per share, while revenue climbed by five per cent to $45.6 billion. The company also will execute a seven-for-one stock split in early June.

After the close, Microsoft reported quarterly earnings per share of 68 cents, five cents better than estimates. Revenue of $20.4 billion narrowly beast expectations of $20.39 billion.

Trading was cautious after Russia's defence minister announced new military exercises in Russia’s south and west in reaction to mounting unrest in eastern Ukraine and NATO exercises in Poland. That development came just hours after Ukrainian troops killed at least two pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, leading Russian President Vladimir Putin to threaten Kyiv with unspecified consequences.

Escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine pushed June crude in New York up 50 cents to US$101.94 a barrel. The energy sector was down 0.63 per cent.

June gold bullion shed early losses to move up $6 to US$1,290.60 an ounce but the sector fell 1.7 per cent.

May copper ran up six cents to US$3.12 a pound and the base metals sector gained 0.57 per cent.

The Canadian Press


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