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TSX little changed amid heavy slate of corporate earnings, economic data

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Thursday amid a mixed showing for corporate earnings and uneven economic data from the United States and China, the world's two largest economies.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 12.2 points to 14,664.07. The Canadian dollar was down 0.01 of a cent at 91.23 cents US.

U.S. indexes were mainly weak as data showed that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose 14,000 to 344,000 last week, the highest level since February. That was unwelcome news a day before the U.S. government releases its non-farm payrolls report for April.

Other data from the Institute for Supply Management showed that its manufacturing index rose to 54.9 from 53.7 in March as exports picked up and factories accelerated hiring.

The Dow Jones industrials was down 21.97 points at 16,558.87, the Nasdaq gained 12.89 points to 4,127.45 and the S&P 500 index slipped 0.27 of a point at 1,883.68.

Manulife Financial’s (TSX:MFC) first-quarter net profit jumped 50 per cent to $818 million, or 42 cents per share. Core earnings, excluding one-time items, were up at $719 million, or 37 cents, compared with $619 million, or 32 cents, year over year. Analysts had expected 39 cents a share but its shares still ticked 16 cents higher to $20.74 as rising wealth sales compensated for lower insurance sales.

"What I like about the company is that they are de-emphasizing the insurance side of the business and putting more muscle into the wealth management side," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at 3MACS.

"I view that as a positive, the reason being the insurance product side of the business, you have to put up capital, you have capital at risk. The (wealth management side) is a fee-driven business, you don’t tie up much capital."

Transportation company Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) posted first-quarter net income of US$115 million, or earnings per share of six cents, compared with $148 million, or eight cents, in the same period of 2013. Ex-items, earnings were eight cents a share, which was in line with expectations and its shares fell 26 cents or 5.9 per cent to $4.15.

Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO) climbed 18 cents to $53.70 as the energy company earned a first-quarter net profit of $946 million, or $1.11 per share, up 19 per cent from $798 million, or 94 cents per share, in the same quarter in 2013. Revenue and other income increased to $9.22 billion compared with $8.01 billion year-over-year.

Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) earned US$98 million or 12 cents a share in its latest quarter as increased gold sales offset lower prices. That’s down from $309 million or 33 cents per share a year ago. Ex-items, profit was $209 million or 26 cents per share, compared with an adjusted profit of $253 million or 31 cents per share in the first quarter of 2013 and its shares added five cents to $27.12.

Commodity prices were lower as a survey of Chinese manufacturers showed activity grew weakly in April.

The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Thursday that its monthly purchasing managers index stood at 50.4 points, up marginally from March’s 50.3 points. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The showing comes as investors wonder if China can maintain growth at the official target of 7.5 per cent.

July copper edged a penny lower to US$3.02 a pound and the base metals sector rose 0.79 per cent.

The June crude contract in New York fell 32 cents to US$99.42 a barrel and the energy sector drifted 0.5 per cent lower.

The gold sector fell about 1.16 per cent as June bullion gave back $12.50 to US$1,283.40 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


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