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Canada's main stock index gained ground on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump promised to be ...

Canada's main stock index gained ground on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump promised to be flexible over import tariffs when dealing with his country's "real friends."

The S&P/TSX Composite Index gathered 61.82 points to open Thursday at 15,534.43

The Canadian dollar eked up 0.01 cents to 77.49 cents U.S.

In corporate news, WeedMD and Phivida have entered into Joint Venture for cannabis-infused beverages. The new joint venture company, Cannabis Beverages Inc., will operate one of the first cannabis-infused beverage production facilities in Canada.

The joint venture partnership will focus on manufacturing, marketing and distribution of cannabinoid-infused beverages for the medical and future adult-use cannabis markets.

WeedMD shares began the day’s trading at $2.00, down a penny from Wednesday, while Phivida was flat at $1.60 a share.

WestJet Airlines said Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky is retiring immediately and would be succeeded by executive vice-president Ed Sims.

Saretsky’s former airline saw its shares plummet $1.30, or 5.1%, to $24.00.

CIBC started coverage on Cameco Corp. with a neutral rating and $12 price target. Cameco shares dipped seven cents to $12.15.

Canaccord Genuity cut the price target on Franco-Nevada to $122 from $126.00. Shares in Franco-Nevada fell $2.84, or 3.1%, to $88.28.

CIBC raised the rating on Obsidian Energy to neutral from underperform. Obsidian shares gained four cents, or 3.3%, to $1.27.

Statistics Canada reported that Canadian municipalities issued $8.4 billion in building permits in January, up 5.6% following a 2.5% rise in December, due mostly to higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings in Ontario.

The agency also reported that new house prices were unchanged for a second consecutive month.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the trend in housing starts was 225,276 units in February, compared to 224,572 units in January.

The White House said Wednesday U.S. President Donald Trump plans to offer Canada and Mexico a 30-day exemption from planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which could be extended based on progress in North American Free Trade Agreement talks

About 5% of Vancouver homes stood empty or underutilized in a city grappling with skyrocketing home prices and soaring rents, according to data released on Wednesday, making their owners subject to a so-called empty home tax.

ON BAYSTREET

The TSX Venture Exchange recovered 2.41 points to 834.35

All but three of the 12 TSX subgroups were stronger in the first hour of trade, with health-care jumping 1.7%, information technology up 1%, and consumer staples ahead of Wednesday’s close 0.7%.

The three laggards were materials, down 0.5%, gold, off 0.4%, and telecoms, sliding 0.1%.

ON WALLSTREET

Stocks traded higher on Thursday amid hopes that the U.S. will exempt Canada and Mexico from proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The Dow Jones Industrials began Thursday’s session up 75.94 points to 24,877.30, with Johnson & Johnson as the best-performing stocks in the index.

The S&P 500 poked ahead 5.97 points to 2,732.77, with real estate as the best-performing sector.

The NASDAQ composite Index gained 22.36 points to 7,419.01

In corporate news, Cigna announced it plans to buy Express Scripts for $67 billion in a cash-and-stock deal. Cigna would find a new partner in Express Scripts, after antitrust regulators last year denied a Cigna and Anthem combination as anti-competitive. Express Scripts shares rose more than 14% on the news.

In economic news, weekly jobless claims in the States increased by 21,000 to 231,000 last week, bouncing back from a 48-year low.
Investors also looked ahead to the release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report.

President Trump is expected to make an announcement regarding the tariffs Thursday afternoon.

Thursday morning, Trump tweeted: "Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House. We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military."

However, media outlets reported that the details of the announcement are still being finalized and that a proclamation signed by Trump could be largely "symbolic."

Prices for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note got stronger, lowering yields to 2.86% from Wednesday’s 2.88%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices gave back 51 cents a barrel to $60.64 U.S.

Gold prices weakened seven dollars at $1,320.60 U.S. an ounce.