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TSX advances, solid earnings from Suncor Energy raise expectations for sector

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Tuesday as a strong earnings report from oilsands giant Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) raised expectations for other energy companies reporting this week.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 52.2 points to close at 14,583.11.

Suncor posted operating earnings of $1.79 billion, or $1.22 per share, widely beating the average analyst expectation of 93 cents and its shares were up 3.05 per cent to $42.60.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.62 of a cent to 91.32 cents US.

A better than expected earnings season pushed New York's Dow Jones industrials up 86.63 points to 16,535.37.

The Nasdaq gained 29.14 points to 4,103.54 and the S&P 500 index climbed 8.9 points to 1,878.33.

After the close, social network company Twitter reported earnings per share, ex-items, showing it broke even, better than the three cent a share loss that had been expected. Revenue of $250 million beat expectations of $241 million but its shares fell about nine per cent in after hours trading, giving back Tuesday's advance of 4.64 per cent, amid a slightly weakerthan expected revenue forecast.

U.S. corporate earnings are currently expected to grow by 1.4 per cent in the period, compared with growth of 5.2 percent in the same period as a year earlier. Two weeks ago, companies were expected to report a decline in earnings.

Investors also looked to the U.S. Federal Reserve, which wraps up its two-day meeting Wednesday. Policy-makers are expected to further trim the central bank’s bond-buying program and provide further insight into the state of the world’s biggest economy.

Traders will also look for further indications of when the Fed might start to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since the financial crisis.

Suncor's performance helped send the energy sector up 1.6 per cent as June crude in New York rose 44 cents to US$101.28 a barrel.

Traders will be taking in earnings from other heavy hitters in the sector this week, including Cenovus (TSX:CVE), Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) amid a sharp change in the fortunes for these companies.

One of the improvements revolves around a sharp narrowing in the price between oilsands crude, known as Western Canadian Select, and West Texas Intermediate, a lighter crude used as the U.S. benchmark.

"That narrowing has gone from roughly $31 at the end of the fourth quarter last year to $21, so that’s a 33 per cent improvement right there," observed John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds.

He also pointed out that the Canadian dollar weakened in the quarter.

"So you have an industry where you’re getting revenues in U.S. dollars and paying expenses in the lower Canadian currency, so you’re making a spread there. And there’s a record number of deals and activity happening in the oilsands year to date."

July copper was down two cents to US$3.07 a pound and the base metals sector rose 1.13 per cent.

Gold faded $2.70 to US$1,296.30 an ounce and the sector was up about one per cent.

In other corporate developments, Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) shares were 62 cents lower to $26 with the announcement that its president and chief executive is retiring. Robert Depatie, who was promoted to the post last May when Pierre Karl Peladeau stepped down, announced Monday that he was retiring for health reasons.

The Canadian Press

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