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TSX Closes Higher On Europe, Mixed Economic Data

Canadian stocks rallied to close higher Thursday, after Spain's bond auction exceeded targets that sparked some positive sentiments among investors. Nonetheless, some soft economic data from the U.S. set off worries about economic growth, while speculations over France's sovereign debt downgrade was also a dampener.

Toronto's main index, the S&P/TSX, closed Thursday at 12,153.69, up 24.80 points or 0.20 percent. The S&P/TSX Composite Index touched an intraday high of 12,227.75 and a low of 12,118.38.

The TSX Venture Index closed at 1,396.77, a decline of 15.05 points or 1.07 percent. The index opened at 1,413.88 compared to its previous close of 1,411.82.

Most major components of the S&P/TSX Index were in the green, led by the Healthcare and Energy indices.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for May delivery, dropped $0.40 or 0.4 percent to close at $102.27 a barrel on the NYMEX Thursday.

The Energy Index gained 0.42 percent with Bankers Petroleum Ltd. (BNK.TO) gaining over 4 percent, Suncor Energy Inc. up 0.67 percent, and Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ.TO) down 0.12 percent.

Gold for June delivery gained $1.80 or 0.1 percent to close at $1,641.40 an ounce Thursday on the NYMEX. The Global Gold Index moved up 0.26 percent.

Among gold stocks, Eldorado Gold Corp. (ELD.TO) gained 0.64 percent, while B2Gold Corp. (BTO.TO) plunged over 8 percent. Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) shed 0.27 percent.

According to media reports, Research In Motion (RIM.TO) is likely to finalize JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) as its financial adviser to help it weigh strategy options. The stock was up 2.52 percent.

Transportation systems maker Bombardier (BBD.B.TO) gained 0.49 percent.

The Health Care Index gained 2.37 percent driven by shares of SXC Health Solutions Corp.(SXC.TO) that jumped over 8 percent. The pharmacy benefit manager Wednesday revealed plans to acquire Catalyst Health Solutions for about $4.4 billion.

The Materials Index gained 0.37 percent, with Eastern Platinum Limited (ELR.TO) up 2.78 percent and Uranium One Inc. (UUU.TO) down 1.99 percent. Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT.TO) gained 0.68 percent.

First Uranium Corp. (FIU.TO) plummeted 36% after the company's gold sales for the fourth quarter 2012 plunged 15% from the prior quarter.

The Financial Index gained 0.16 percent, led by the Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) up 0.54 percent. TD Bank (TD.TO) edged down 0.01 percent, while Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) was down 0.67 percent.

The Metals & Mining Index gained 0.53 percent, led by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM.TO) up 3.11 percent and Lundin Mining Corp. (LUN.TO) up 5.80 percent.

Ivanhoe Mines (IVN.TO) shed nearly 4 percent after Rio Tinto PLC said it would review the sale of a stake in SouthGobi Resources to Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. since it has gained control of Ivanhoe board.

Meanwhile, Aastra Technologies (AAH.TO) dived over 10 percent after reporting first quarter earnings that came in below street expectations. The telecommunications company reported a sharp increase in first-quarter net profit at C$1.96 million or C$0.14 per share compared to C$184,000 or C$0.01 per share last year. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of C$0.35 per share.

In Europe, a bond auction in Spain showed strong demand, although yields continued to ride high. The Treasury sold 2.54 billion euros of 2- and 10-year bonds, which is slightly in excess of 2.50 billion euros target for the sale. The yield on the 10-year benchmark bond rose to 5.743 percent from 5.403 percent in the previous auction in January.

In economic news from the U.S., the Labor Department's new unemployment claims for the week ended April 14, came in at a seasonally adjusted level of 386,000, a decline from the previous week's revised level of 388,000 claims. The revised figures were up from initial estimates that put the level of new claims for the week ending April 7 at 380,000. Most economists expected the level of new claims to drop to a level of 365,000 for the week ended April 14.

Separately, the National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million in February. The drop surprised economists, who had expected existing home sales to edge up to 4.62 million from the 4.59 million originally reported for the previous month.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report Thursday showed the diffusion index of current activity dropped to 8.5 in April from 12.5 in March, although a positive reading still indicates an increase in manufacturing activity. Economists expected the index to edge down to a reading of 12.0.

Indicating a positive outlook, the Conference Board's leading economic index for the U.S. increased for the sixth consecutive month in March, a report on Thursday showed. The leading economic index rose by 0.3 percent in March following a 0.7 percent increase in February and a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists expected the index to increase by 0.2 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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