TSX advances as traders look to U.S. Fed for clarity
Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013 6:04AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 18, 2013 10:50AM EST
TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market registered a solid gain Wednesday morning with traders anxious to see what the Federal Reserve has to say about cutting back on its monthly asset purchases.
The S&P/TSX composite index ran ahead 78.38 points to 13,258.54 with gains spread across all sectors.
The Canadian dollar was down 0.33 of a cent to 93.92 cents US as the greenback strengthened ahead of an afternoon announcement from the Fed at the conclusion of its two-day meeting on interest rates.
U.S. indexes were mixed with the Dow Jones industrials up 60.68 points to 15,935.94, the Nasdaq slipped 2.95 points to 4,020.73 and the S&P 500 index climbed 3.39 points to 1,784.39.
Speculation has grown recently that a series of strong economic data may persuade the Fed to use this meeting to announce it is cutting back on its monthly purchases of US$85 billion of bonds. Those purchases have kept long term rates low and encouraged investors to put their money into stocks, which has in turn supported a strong rally on equity markets this year.
"Our economists are calling taper at this meeting a 50/50 decision," said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Michael Gregory in a commentary.
Gregory said one of the best arguments for tapering now is that the Fed's objective of quantitative easing when launched in September 2012, was to reduce unemployment, which at that time stood at 8.1 per cent.
"But now, based off of November data, unemployment stands at seven per cent. Furthermore, three of the last four jobs readings have been north of 200,000. This is the perfect time to celebrate (outgoing chairman Ben) Bernanke's achievement and declare 'mission accomplished!"'
The Fed makes its announcement at 2 p.m. EST, followed by a news conference by Bernanke at 2:30 p.m.
Financials led advancers, up 0.9 per cent as Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) improved by 59 cents to $63.90.
The telecom sector was up 0.7 per cent as Industry Minister James Moore says the government will move to prevent wireless providers from charging customers of rival companies more than they charge their own customers for domestic roaming. The CRTC is already investigating the issue of whether big wireless companies are charging their smaller Canadian competitors too much to use their networks. Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) was up 45 cents to $47.62.
The gold sector was ahead 0.45 per cent as February gold dropped a dime to US$1,230 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) was ahead 22 cents to C$22.79.
Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) said that former American Airlines chief executive Donald Carty and Signalta Capital president Robert Franklin have resigned from the company's board of directors. Barrick has been working to revamp and improve its corporate governance. Earlier this month, Barrick announced that founder and co-chairman Peter Munk would retire. Barrick shares slipped five cents to $18.18.
The energy sector moved ahead 0.44 per cent with January crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange 59 cents higher to US$97.81 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) was ahead 24 cents to C$35.74.
Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO) has applied for regulatory approval to build a new Aspen oilsands project northeast of Fort McMurray, Alta., which would cost an estimated $7 billion. The first phase of Imperial's $12.9-billion Kearl oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray started up earlier this year. Imperial gained 15 cents to $45.52.
March copper declined a penny to US$3.31 a pound while the base metals component rose 0.4 per cent. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) gained 28 cents to C$17.35.
Elsewhere on the corporate front, a report from a federal review panel on Enbridge's (TSX:ENB) proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would link the Alberta oil sands with a tanker port on the B.C. coast, will be released Thursday following more than a year of hearings. The highly-anticipated report on the controversial project will include the panel's recommendations for the project but the final decision on whether the pipeline can go ahead rests with the federal government. Enbridge rose 45 cents to $44.40.
In the U.S., FedEx Corp. posted net income that was 14 per cent higher than a year earlier, when superstorm Sandy hurt business. However, the second-quarter profit of $1.57 per share was lower than the $1.64 per share expected by analysts. Revenue rose three per cent to $11.4 billion, about what analysts were expecting.
FedEx raised its full-year profit outlook slightly and its shares declined 23 cents to US$138.86.
European bourses were higher as London's FTSE 100 index rose 0.27 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX gained one per cent while the Paris CAC 40 index was ahead 0.84 per cent.