By Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher for a sixth session Thursday, boosted by another string of advances from beaten down commodity prices and strong earnings reports from the retail, resource and tech sectors.
The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 59.08 points to 12,329.51 following a 179-point surge Wednesday as traders bargain hunted after the TSX tumbled more than two per cent last week on worries about slowing economic conditions.
"When you look at where we are, some of these commodities have all of a sudden come back to life," said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at Scotia Capital.
"If you can get a few days under your belt and there is some consistency to it, it reinforces the confidence that people have that maybe there is a recovery in that (commodity) sector."
Strengthening prices for oil and metals and positive economic news from Canada's biggest trading partner pushed the Canadian dollar ahead 0.46 of a cent to 97.96 cents US.
U.S. markets also advanced as traders balanced earnings disappointments from energy giant ExxonMobil and conglomerate 3M with a strong reading on jobless insurance claims.
The Dow Jones industrial average was ahead 24.5 points at 14,700.8 as unemployment insurance claims for last week were down 16,000 to 339,000 — the lowest in six weeks. Analysts had forecast expectations of 350,000.
The Nasdaq climbed 20.34 points to 3,289.99 and the S&P 500 index rose 6.37 points to 1,585.16.
The base metals sector led TSX advances, up just over three per cent as May copper gained eight cents to US$3.24 a pound following a six-cent run-up Wednesday after Goldman Sachs said it expected copper prices to rebound in the next three months.
The rising copper price is also being driven by hopes that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates to stimulate the economy next Thursday. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM.TO - News) climbed 65 cents to C$18.
The gold sector was up about 0.7 per cent while gold futures jumped for a second day, with the June bullion contract rising $38.30 to US$1,462 an ounce.
The trend is partly due to bargain hunters looking for a deal after bullion plunged last week to US$1,361 an ounce, its lowest level in more than two years. It is now halfway back to levels it was before the price of gold began dropping in the second week of April.
"(Gold) is in the recovery ward — now I don’t know how long that’s going to last," said Ketchen.
The energy sector was also positive, up 0.69 per cent as positive jobless news helped send the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up $2.21 to US$93.64 a barrel. Prices advanced more than $2 on Wednesday in the wake of data showing a much weaker than forecast rise in U.S. inventories last week.
Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO.TO - News) said its first-quarter net income was down 21 per cent from a year ago, mainly because of a wider discount on the price of bitumen produced at its Cold Lake oilsands operation. The company's profit fell by $217 million to $798 million, or 94 cents per share, down from $1.19 or about $1 billion a year earlier. Its shares were up 42 cents to $40.51.
ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM - News), which owns a majority stake in Imperial Oil, reported net income of US$9.5 billion in the quarter, or $2.12 per share, on revenue of $108.8 billion. Analysts expected Exxon to earn $2.05 per share, on average. Exxon shares were down $1.36 to $88.07.
The tech sector grew by 2.68 per cent as Open Text (TSX:OTC.TO - News) charged ahead $7.17 or 12.42 per cent to $64.91 as it announced plans Wednesday to start paying a quarterly dividend of 30 cents a share starting in June.
At the same time, the company reported lower net profit of US$25.8 million in its third quarter compared with US$34.7 million in the same period last year.
The consumer staples group was also positive. Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. (TSX:SC.TO - News) earned $119.5 million or 59 cents per share on sales of $2.49 billion in its latest quarter compared with a profit of $118.8 million or 56 cents per share on sales of $2.39 billion a year ago. Same-store sales were up 2.5 per cent for the quarter. Its shares gained 15 cents to $44.85.
Elsewhere on the earnings front, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (TSX:POT.TO - News) is reporting an improved first-quarter profit, with $556 million or 63 cents per share of net income that beat analyst estimates. However the company’s guidance for the second quarter is estimated at 70 to 85 cents per share, which was below the consensus estimate of 89 cents per share. Its 2013 guidance remains unchanged at between $275 and $3.25 per share. Potash shares were up $1.08 at $41.72.
In the U.S., net income for 3M (NYSE:MMM - News) was just slightly higher than a year ago at $1.13 billion, or $1.61 per share. Revenue rose two per cent to $7.63 billion. Revenue and profits were both short of analyst expectations. 3M, the maker of Scotch tape and construction and safety materials, is a good window into the broader economy. Its shares fell $3 to US$104.87.
Traders, meanwhile, looked ahead to the major report of the week on Friday with the release of U.S. economic growth data for the first quarter. Economists expect U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of three per cent in the January-to-March period.
The TSX Venture Exchange rose 12.97 points to 964.67.