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TSX Ends Marginally Higher Amid Cyprus Worries - Canadian Commentary

Canadian stocks ended marginally higher Friday, tracking rising global equity markets, as investors hoped Cyprus would be able to resolve its financial problems. Cypriot politicians, meanwhile, continued to struggle in their quest for an alternative plan to raise 5.8 billion euro to enable it get a bailout aid of 10 billion euro from international lenders.

The European Central Bank has threatened to suspend emergency funding for Cyprus banks Monday night, if an alternative plan is not in place. The Mediterranean island nation had earlier rejected a proposal to tax deposits in Cyprus banks for a bailout package. Cyprus has extended country-wide bank lock-outs until Tuesday next week, in an effort to avert a bank run.

In another development, news reports said Cyprus has agreed with Greece to spin off Greek branches of Cypriot banks, under some beneficial terms given the current circumstances. Cyprus has not been able to strike any deal with Russia on any financial help for the beleaguered country.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed Friday at 12,757.35, up 9.48 points or 0.07 percent. The index touched an intraday high of 12,818.43 and a low of 12,745.35.

The Information Technology Index plummeted 2.80 percent, with BlackBerry Inc. (BB.TO) plunging 8.05 percent after its much-touted smartphone Z10 device went on sale in the U.S.

The Global Gold Index shed 0.50 percent, with gold futures for April delivery, dropping $7.70 or 0.5 percent to close at $1,606.10 an ounce Friday on the Nymex.

Among gold stocks, Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) shed 0.92 percent, Kinross Gold Corp. (L.TO) gained 0.24 percent, Yamana Gold Inc. (YRI.TO) moved up 0.69 percent, and Gold Corp. (G.TO) gained 0.26 percent.

The Capped Materials Index surrendered 0.32 percent, with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc.(POT.TO) slipping 0.20 percent.

The Diversified Metals & Mining Index declined 0.96 percent, with First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM.TO) slipping 2.33 percent and Osisko Mining Corp. (OSK.TO) losing 1.95 percent. Lundin Mining Corp. (LUN.TO) fell 1.53 percent, while Teck Resources Limited (TCK.B.TO) shed 0.14 percent.

The Energy Index dropped 0.06 percent, although U.S. crude oil futures for May delivery surged $1.26 or 1.4 percent to close at $93.71 a barrel Friday on the Nymex.

Among energy stocks, Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) edged up 0.24 percent, while Suncor Energy Inc. (SU.TO) edged up 0.19 percent. Husky Energy Inc. (HSE.TO) shed 0.13 percent, while Encana Corp. (ECA.TO) slipped 0.15 percent.

The Financial Index gained 0.48 percent, with Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) up 0.59 percent, Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC.TO) gained 0.60 percent, and Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) gathered 0.35 percent. Royal Bank (RY.TO) gained 1.04 percent, while Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce (CM.TO) inched up 0.28 percent. TD Bank (TD.TO) moved up 0.35 percent.

The Capped Industrials Index edged down 0.20 percent, with Bombardier Inc. (BBD.A.TO, BBD.B.TO) down 2.87 percent.

Twin Butte Energy (TBE.TO) gained 4.74 percent after reporting a narrower fourth-quarter net loss of $5.4 million or $0.02 per share, compared to $37.0 million or $0.27 per share a year ago. Analysts expected earnings of breakeven per share for the quarter.

Enerplus Corp. (ERF.TO) said its President & Chief Executive Officer, Gordon Kerr, will be retiring effective June 30 and succeeded by Ian Dundas, currently the company's Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer. The stock slipped 0.27 percent.

International gold miner Dundee Precious Metals (DPM.TO) said Thursday that, effective April 1, Jonathan Goodman will become the Executive Chair of the board of directors. The stock slipped 1.11 percent.

Meanwhile, Silver Wheaton Corp. (SLW.TO) added 0.76 percent after reporting a quarterly net profit of $177.7 million or $0.50 per share, up from $144.7 million or $0.41 per share last year. Analysts expected earnings of $0.49 per share for the quarter.

Industrial treated wood products company Stella-Jones Inc. (SJ.TO) edged down 0.88 percent after reporting improved fourth quarter net income of C$16.54 million or C$1.00 per share compared to C$13.36 million last year or C$0.83 per share a year earlier. Analysts estimated earnings per share of C$0.93 for the period.

Americas Bullion Royalty Corp. (AMB.TO) plunged 7.69 percent after announcing that it would sell its 40 percent joint venture interest in the Phoenix Property in Nevada to Battle Mountain Gold Inc.

In economic news from the eurozone, Germany's business confidence fell unexpectedly to 106.7 in March, the first fall in five months, a survey from the Ifo Institute said. Economists expected the index to rise to 107.8 from a 10-month high of 107.4 in February. The expectations index declined to 103.6 from 104.6 in February. The forecast was for a rise to 105. Similarly, the assessment of current conditions dropped to 109.9 from 110.2 a month ago, when it was expected to improve to 110.5.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts China to grow 8.5 percent this year and 8.9 percent in 2014. These estimates were left unrevised from the projections released in November. The OECD estimate is optimistic compared to the government target of 7.5 percent this year. According to the OECD, the growth will be underpinned by housing demand, lower interest rates and business investment. Nonetheless, export growth is set to remain subdued.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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