Stocks out of the blocks

Canada's main stock index started Wednesday off on the right foot, on hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve will continue with its monetary easing policy, ahead of the release of minutes of its May meeting and testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 71.91 points, to begin Wednesday at 12,814.34

The Canadian dollar dropped 0.08 cents to 97.29 cents U.S.

Sears Canada Inc posted a loss in the first quarter compared with a profit last year, and named E.J. Bird as chief financial officer. Shares in Sears Canada dropped a nickel at $9.30.

Elsewhere, West Africa-focused miner Afferro has agreed to a $190-million cash-and-paper offer from investment group IMIC which could pave the way for its flagship iron ore project to be developed. Afferro shares leaped 20 cents, or 19.8%, to $1.21.

Bank of Nova Scotia CEO Rick Waugh said on Tuesday that Chinese authorities are reevaluating whether they want to go ahead with a deal to sell 20% of Bank of Guangzhou to Scotiabank, whose shares hiked 16 cents to $59.90.

Talisman Energy expects to remove the faulty platform at its Yme oilfield in the North Sea next year and to install a new one by the first half of 2015, it said in the first timeline provided since the troubled project was suspended last year. Talisman shares ditched two cents to $12.13.

The White House has threatened to veto legislation pending in the U.S House of Representatives that could strip from President Barack Obama the authority to approve TransCanada Corporation's controversial Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada shares fell 24 cents to $50.55.

On the economic calendar, Statistics Canada reported this morning that retail sales came in at $39.5 billion in March, roughly the same as the month before. After removing the effects of price changes, particularly lower gasoline prices, retail sales in volume terms rose 0.7%.


The TSX Venture Exchange gained 7.06 points to 946.47

All but one of the 14 Toronto subgroups were higher in the early morning trade, led again by the gold sector, up 3%, while metals and mining clicked 2.2% and materials surged 2%.

The one naysayer was health-care, sagging 0.4%.


All eyes are on U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke this morning, as he goes before Congress to discuss the outlook for the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones Industrials gained 117.54 points above Tuesday's record close, to open at 15,505.10

The S&P 500 index picked up 7.84 points to 1,677 – a new intraday high for that index. The tech-rich NASDAQ Composite tacked on 24.30 points to 3,526.42

Bernanke is making a statement and take questions from lawmakers.

However, one observer added that minutes from the Fed's most recent meeting could revive concerns that officials are increasingly at odds over the size of the asset purchases. The minutes will be released at 2 p.m. ET

Lowe's reported an increase in quarterly sales and profit, but the home improvement retailer missed estimates.

The results came one day after rival home improvement retailer Home Depot reported stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

Shares of Target fell after the retail chain reported a worse-than-expected decline in earnings.

Staples reported a decline in quarterly sales because of store closings. The office supplier also reported a drop in profit.

Shares of Saks Fifth Avenue rallied about 19% following a strong sales report and a New York Post story saying the luxury retailer may be looking for a buyer.

Shares in Carnival dropped one day after the cruise ship operator took a beating following its dour sales outlook for the year.

Hewlett-Packard is scheduled to report quarterly earnings after the close.

Economically speaking, the National Association of Realtors is expected to report an increase in existing home sales during April later this morning.

Prices for the 10-year U.S. Treasury edged up, lowering yields to 1.92% from Tuesday's 1.94%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices dipped $1.23 to $94.95 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices recovered six dollars at $1,383.60 U.S. an ounce