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Stocks Are Climbing Despite Commodity Weakness - Canadian Commentary

The Canadian stock market is up in early trade Thursday, recovering some of the lost ground from the previous session. The markets is gaining ground despite the pullback in commodity prices this morning. Investors appear cautiously optimistic that U.S. President Trump will relent on threats of crippling tariffs.

Markets in Europe are trading in the green Thursday after the European Central Bank moved closer to exiting its massive monetary stimulus. The ECB dropped the easing bias on asset purchases from its forward guidance, as sought by some policymakers in previous sessions, while leaving the key interest rates unchanged.

Markets on Wall Street got off to a positive start Thursday, but have since pared their early gains. Traders appear reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index is up 46.17 points or 0.30 percent at 15,518.78.

On Wednesday, the index closed down 72.58 points or 0.47 percent, at 15,472.61. The index scaled an intraday high of 15,611.85 and a low of 15,471.56.

The Capped Information Technology Index is gaining 1.66 percent. Descartes Systems Group (DSG.TO) is higher by 2.82 percent and Constellation Software (CSU.TO) is advancing 1.12 percent. Sierra Wireless (SW.TO) is climbing 1.47 percent and BlackBerry (BB.TO) is rising 1.36 percent.

The Capped Healthcare Index is higher by 1.26 percent. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (VRX.TO) is increasing 1.06 percent.

The Capped Industrials Index is up 0.59 percent. Air Canada (AC.TO) is increasing 0.82 percent and Bombardier (BBD-B.TO) is gaining 1.36 percent. Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO) is rising 0.80 percent and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP.TO) is advancing 0.45 percent.

WestJet (WJA.TO) is sinking 4.98 percent after its CEO Gregg Saretsky announced his retirement. He will be replaced by Ed Sims, the company's executive vice president of commercial, effective immediately.

The heavyweight Financial Index is increasing 0.48 percent. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) is gaining 0.45 percent and Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) is up 0.36 percent. Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) is advancing 0.02 percent and Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) is climbing 0.53 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) is rising 0.54 percent.

The Capped Materials Index is down 0.60 percent. Franco-Nevada (FNV.TO) is losing 2.39 percent and Nutrien (NTR.TO) is falling 0.52 percent.

The Gold Index is decreasing 0.37 percent. Gold prices are slightly lower Thursday morning, after the European Central Bank left its key interest rate unchanged.

B2Gold (BTO.TO) is losing 1.72 percent and Eldorado Gold (ELD.TO) is down 5 percent. Yamana Gold (YRI.TO) is down 0.3.98 percent.

The Energy Index is falling 0.11 percent. Crude oil prices are slipping Thursday morning as traders looked ahead to U.S. jobs data and the weekly rig count.

Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) is decreasing 0.37 percent and Encana (ECA.TO) is weakening by 0.99 percent. Husky Energy (HSE.TO) is declining 0.35 percent and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) is falling 1.55 percent. Crescent Point Energy (CPG.TO) is losing 3.93 percent and Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO) is surrendering 3.14 percent.

Machine parts maker Linamar (LNR.TO) said net earnings for 2017 came in at $549.4 million compared to $522.5 million a year earlier, on strong sales. Shares are climbing 3.81 percent.

On the economic front, China's exports increased sharply in February ahead of the Trump administration imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, raising fears of a trade war.

Data from the General Administration of Customs showed that exports jumped 44.5 percent year-over-year in February, much bigger than the 11.0 percent rise economists had forecast.

Imports climbed 6.3 percent in February from a year ago, slower than the expected growth of 8.0 percent.

The trade surplus totaled $33.7 billion in February, in contrast to the forecast of $5.7 billion shortfall and well above January's $20.3 billion surplus.

German factory orders declined at the fastest pace in a year in January on weaker domestic as well as foreign demand. New orders in manufacturing dropped 3.9 percent month-on-month in January, reversing a revised 3 percent rise in December, figures from Destatis revealed Thursday.

This was the biggest decline since January, when orders decreased 4.8 percent. Orders were forecast to fall moderately by 1.8 percent.

A day ahead of the release of the more closely watched monthly jobs, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a bigger than expected rebound in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended March 3rd.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims climbed to 231,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 210,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 220,000.

In commodities, crude oil futures for April delivery are down 0.41 or 0.67 percent at $60.74 a barrel.

Natural gas for April is down 0.022 or 0.79 percent at $2.755 per million btu.

Gold futures for April are down 6.10 or 0.46 percent at $1,321.50 an ounce.

Silver for May is down 0.014 or 0.08 percent at $16.48 an ounce.

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