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TSX Closes Higher On Astral Media, Energy Stocks - Canadian Commentary

Canadian stocks closed higher Friday, extending gains for a second straight day amid strength in energy stocks and investors upbeat on the BCE acquisition of Astral Media. For the week, the TSX gained 0.3 percent.

Toronto's main index, the S&P/TSX, closed Friday at 12,497.65, up 41.83 points or 0.34 percent. The S&P/TSX Composite Index touched an intraday high of 12,537.51 and a low of 12,455.82.

The TSX Venture Index closed at 1,605.74, up 4.22 points or 0.26 percent. The index opened at 1,604.41 compared to its previous close of 1,601.52.

Among major gainers were, the Metals & Mining, Financial, Energy, and Diversified Material Indices. Among decliners were the Health Care, Real Estate, Telecommunications, Utilities, and the Gold Indices.

Media company Astral Media Inc. (ACM_B.TO) soared over 33 percent after telecommunications company BCE Inc. (BCE.TO) announced that Bell would acquire Astral Media for about $3.38 billion or $50 per share.

The Capped Consumer Discretionary Index gained 1.75 percent following the deal by BCE.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for April delivery gained $1.95 or 1.9 percent to close at $107.061 a barrel on the NYMEX.

The Energy Index moved up 0.72 percent with Suncor Energy Inc. up 0.49 percent and Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ.TO) gaining 2.13 percent. Encana Corp. (ECA.TO) moved up 2.84 percent, while Nexen Inc. (NXY.TO) shed 1.34 percent.

Coastal Energy (CEN.TO) gained 4.22 percent, after plunging nearly 8 percent Wednesday after declaring results from its Bua Ban South A-01 well.

Transportation systems maker Bombardier (BBD.B.TO) gained 1.50 percent, while Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM.TO) surged 6.58 percent.

Viterra Inc. (VT.TO) gained 0.87 percent amid the takeover offer from Swiss mining and commodities trader Glencore International plc (GLCNF.PK).

Industrial wood products company Stella-Jones Inc. (SJ.TO) edged up 0.12 percent after announcing a higher fourth quarter profit of C$13.4 million or C$0.83 per share compared to last year, while analysts expected earnings of C$0.72 per share. The company also declared a quarterly dividend of C$0.15 per share.

Gold for April delivery dropped $3.70 or 0.2 percent to $1,655.80 an ounce Friday on the NYMEX. The Global Gold Index dropped 0.49 percent.

Among gold stocks, Kinross Gold Corp. (K.TO) gained 0.51 percent, Eldorado Gold Corp. (ELD.TO) was down 1.12 percent, Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) up 0.02 percent, and Goldcorp Inc. (G) down 0.82 percent.

The Materials Index gained 0.82 percent with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT.TO) up 6.88 percent. Uranium One Inc. (UUU.TO) shed 1.61 percent.

The Metals & Mining Index moved up 0.59 percent, with Teck Resources (TCK.B.TO) gaining 3.60 percent and First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) dropping 1.59 percent.

The Financial Index gained 0.23 percent with Sun Life Financial Inc. (SLF.TO) improving 1.26 percent. Manulife Financial Corporation (MFC.TO) was down 0.07 percent and Royal Bank (RY.TO) down 0.15 percent.

Oil and natural gas company TransAtlantic Petroleum (TNP.TO) shed over 5 percent after reporting a wider fourth quarter net loss of $66.94 million and a loss from continuing operations of $54.5 million or $0.15 per share.

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. Canadian investors acquired foreign securities for a ninth straight month as they added $1.3 billion to their holdings.

From the U.S, a Labor Department report on Friday showed a moderate increase in U.S. consumer prices in February. The consumer price index rose by 0.4 percent in February following a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists expected the index to increase by about 0.5 percent. The increase in consumer prices was largely due to a 3.2 percent jump in energy prices, which came after 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 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, eurozone merchandise trade balance slipped to a deficit in January. The trade balance was a deficit of euro 7.6 billion in January, compared to a surplus of euro 9.1 billion in December, which was revised down from euro 9.7 billion. Economists expected a deficit of EUR3 billion in January.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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