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Commodities Lift TSX; Astral Media Jumps - Canadian Commentary

Toronto stocks were extending gains for a second session Friday morning amid optimism over the U.S. economy and rising energy prices.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 56.93 points or 0.46 percent to 12,512.75, after gaining nearly 80 points in the previous session.

Media company Astral Media Inc. (ACM_B.TO) skyrocketed over 40 percent to C$52.95 after telecommunications company BCE Inc. (BCE.TO) announced that Bell would acquiring Astral Media for about $3.38 billion, or $50 per share.

The price of crude oil was steady above $105, with crude for April adding $0.66 to $105.77 a barrel.

In the oil patch, Petrobakken Energy (PBN.TO) moved up nearly 4 percent. Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) and Tourmaline Oil (TOU.TO) moved up around 2 percent each.

Coastal Energy (CEN.TO) gained over 3 percent. On Wednesday the stock dived nearly 8 percent after announcing results of the Bua Ban South A-01 well.

Smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM.TO) gained over 4 percent.

Industrial wood products company Stella-Jones Inc. (SJ.TO) edged up 0.70 percent after announcing a higher fourth quarter profit of C$13.4 million or C$0.83 per share compared to last year's C$10.7 million or C$0.67 per share. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of C$0.72 per share. Further, the company declared a quarterly dividend of C$0.15 per share.

Meanwhile, gold stocks were trading lower amid falling bullion prices. Gold for April eased $2.60 to $1,656.90 an ounce.

Allied Nevada Gold (ANV.TO) and Centerra Gold (CG.TO) lost close to 3 percent each.

Oil and natural gas company TransAtlantic Petroleum (TNP.TO) reported a wider fourth quarter net loss of $66.94 million compared to the loss of $30.2 million a year ago. Net loss from continuing operations was $54.5 million or $0.15 per share versus loss of $17.2 million or $0.05 per share last year. The stock dived 12 percent to C$1.130.

In economic news, Statistics Canada said manufacturing sales declined 0.9 percent to $49.6 billion in January, with decrease in production in the aerospace product and parts industry overshadowing higher sales in the motor vehicle (assembly) and motor vehicle parts industries.

In a separate report, the agency said foreign investors reduced their holdings of Canadian securities by $4.2 billion in January after a cumulative acquisition of $55.1 billion in the previous six months, while Canadian investors acquired foreign securities for a ninth straight month as they added $1.3 billion to their holdings.

From the U.S, the Labor Department said its consumer price index rose by 0.4 percent in February following a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists had expected the index to increase by about 0.5 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core producer price index edged up by 0.1 percent in February compared to a 0.2 percent increase in the previous month.

Meanwhile, industrial production in the U.S. unexpectedly came in unchanged in February, according to a report released by the Federal Reserve, with a sharp drop in mining output offsetting continued growth in the manufacturing sector. The report showed that industrial production was unchanged in February after rising by a revised 0.4 percent in January. Economist had expected production to increase by 0.5 percent after initial data showed that production was unchanged in the previous month.

A report from the Reuters and the University of Michigan revealed that consumer sentiment in the U.S. showed an unexpected decrease in March. The report showed that the consumer sentiment index fell to 74.3 in March from 75.3 in February. The drop surprised economists, who had expected the index to increase to 76.0.

Elsewhere, euro zone merchandise trade balance slipped to a deficit in January, and exceeded economists' forecast, data released by statistical office Eurostat showed. The trade balance was a deficit of EUR7.6 billion in January, compared to a surplus of EUR9.1 billion in December, which was revised down from EUR9.7 billion. Economists were looking for a deficit of EUR3 billion in January.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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