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TSX Ends Modestly Higher On Commodities -- Canadian Commentary

Canadian stocks closed modestly higher Wednesday after two straight days of losses, on a moderate rebound in resource stocks as commodity prices rallied. Toronto stocks made a late rally despite some disappointing home sales data from the U.S. and lingering worries of economic growth slowdown in China.

Toronto's main index, the S&P/TSX, closed Wednesday at 12,436.49, up 5.79 points or 0.05 percent. The S&P/TSX Composite Index touched an intraday high of 12,462.90 and a low of 12,380.85.

The TSX Venture Index closed at 1,577.56, up 6.86 points or 0.44 percent. The index opened at 1,575.06 compared to its previous close of 1,570.70.

Among major decliners on the S&P/TSX Index were the Energy, Metals & Mining, Financial, and the Diversified Material Indices. The gainers included the Industrial and the Global Gold Indices.

Latest data from the Energy Information Administration revealed U.S crude stockpiles unexpectedly dipped by 1.20 million barrels and gasoline stocks eased a similar 1.20 million barrels in the week ended March 16. Analysts expected crude inventories to gain 2.10 million barrels and gasoline stocks to dip 1.80 million barrels last week.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for May delivery, the new front month contract, gained $1.66 or 1.1 percent to close at $107.27 a barrel Wednesday on the NYMEX.

The Energy Index shed 0.07 percent with Suncor Energy Inc. up 0.18 percent, Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM.TO) down 0.97 percent, and Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ.TO) up 0.52 percent. Enbridge Inc. (ENB.TO) shed 1.14 percent, while Encana Corp. (ECA.TO) gained 1.41 percent.

The Industrial Index gained 1.14 percent with automotive parts supplier Martinrea International Inc. (MRE.TO) shares gaining 4.24 percent after reporting improved fourth quarter profit of C$18.5 million or C$0.22 per share compared to C$15.6 million or C$0.18 per share last year.

Transportation systems maker Bombardier (BBD.B.TO) gained 3.21 percent, while Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM.TO) edged down 0.43 percent.

Gold for April delivery gained $3.30 or 0.2 percent to close at $1,650.30 an ounce Wednesday on the NYMEX. The Global Gold Index shed 0.26 percent.

Among gold stocks, Torex Gold Resources Inc. (TXG.TO) added 2.99 percent, while Yamana Gold Inc. (YRI.TO) moved up 0.13 percent. Kinross Gold Corp. (K.TO) shed 1.29 percent, Eldorado Gold Corp. (ELD.TO) was up 0.23 percent, and Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) down 0.44 percent. B2Gold Corp. (BTO.TO) dropped 1.98 percent, while Goldcorp Inc. (G) edged down 0.32 percent.

The Materials Index was down 0.36 percent with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT.TO) down 0.75 percent. Pretium Resources Inc. (PVG.TO) shed 6.5 percent.

The Metals & Mining Index declined 1.15 percent, with Osisko Mining Corp. (OSK.TO) down 2.36 percent and Teck Resources (TCK.B.TO) edging down 0.14 percent. First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) dropped 1.10 percent.

Metals miner HudBay Minerals (HBM.TO) edged down 1.23 percent after it said it would hike its stake in Back Forty, a precious metals project, to 51 percent, while Aquila Resources Inc. will hold a 49 percent stake.

The Financial Index gained a modest 0.03 percent with Royal Bank (RY.TO) moving up 0.05 percent. Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC.TO) declined 0.44 percent, while Sun Life Financial Inc. (SLF.TO) gained 1.17 percent. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) shed 0.22 percent.

Pharmaceutical company Paladin Labs (PLB.TO) eased 0.20 percent after indicating that Health Canada has approved Oralair, a sublingual grass pollen immunotherapy tablet for the treatment seasonal grass pollen allergic rhinitis.

Communications technology services provider Miranda Technologies Inc. (MT.TO) soared over 14.85 percent. The company announced that Tim Thorsteinson will replace the outgoing Director Thomas Cantwell.

In economic news, Statistics Canada said its composite leading index rose for an eighth consecutive month in February adding 0.6 percent, following a 0.4 percent gain in January. In February, 6 of the 10 components indicated a rise.

From the US, the National Association of Realtors said existing home sales slipped 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January. Economists had expected existing home sales to edge up to 4.61 million from the 4.57 million that had been reported for the previous month. The modest drop in existing home sales in February came after sales surged up by an upwardly revised 5.7 percent in January.

In other economic news, the Bank of England retained its quantitative easing unchanged at GBP 325 billion on a split vote as two members preferred a GBP 25 billion increase in the program, the minutes of the meeting showed. All members voted to retain a record low 0.5 percent interest rate. The meeting was held on March 7 and 8.

by RTT Staff Writer

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