TSX rises, helped by bump in gold prices; New York struggles on mixed earnings

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market finished with a solid advance Thursday, helped by a jump in gold prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 73.86 points at 13,473.83, buoyed by modest gains across several key sectors, while the Canadian dollar lifted 0.11 of a U.S. cent to 75.20 cents U.S.

The TSX global gold sector rose 2.5 per cent as the index benefited from the biggest single-session climb in bullion prices since Oct. 28.

The December contract moved ahead $9.20 to US$1,077.90 an ounce.

Minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, released Wednesday afternoon, were still on trader’s minds as the U.S. dollar pulled back. Expectations are for the Fed to nudge its key interest rate higher next month for the first time since the economic downturn.

“We’re approaching a very important inflection point that investors have been anticipating for quite some time,” said Colum McKinley, vice-president and portfolio manager of Canadian Equities at CIBC Asset Management.

The lead-up to the decision will “contribute to volatility across all asset classes,” he added.

In other commodities, December crude oil fell 21 cents to US$40.54 a barrel, after having slipped below the $40-mark in intraday trading the previous session, while the December natural gas contract plunged 7.1 cents to US$2.28 per mmBtu.

December copper lost 1.5 cents to US$2.08 a pound.

Gains in Valeant Pharmaceuticals (TSX:VRX) stock helped the TSX health-care sector rise 2.7 per cent after the pharma company said it would likely boost cash and stock incentives in the coming weeks. The company is hoping to retain more key staff amidst turmoil that has caused its share price to plummet.

Valeant shares rose 15 per cent to $111.79.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrials was down 4.41 points at 17,732.75, while the broader S&P 500 shed 2.34 points to 2,081.24 and the Nasdaq backed off 1.56 points to 5,073.64.

In absence of major economic news, investors were balancing some disappointing company earnings and outlooks with more favourable results by other companies.

U.S. health-care stocks were among the biggest decliners on U.S. markets after UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) cut its 2015 earnings forecast. It stock was down $5.65 or 6.6 per cent at US$110.63.

Meanwhile, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) shares were down 66 cents or 2.11 per cent at US$30.67 after the electronics retailer reported weak quarterly sales and a cautious outlook for the holiday shopping season.

And, after an initial jump, shares in Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) finished unchanged at $1.28 on the TSX following news that the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec has agreed to invest US$1.5 billion in the company for a 30 per cent minority stake in its rail business.

That would give Bombardier another cash infusion as it works to complete work on its new CSeries jet. A deal announced last month saw the Quebec government invest US$1 billion for a stake in the CSeries program.

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