Stock markets move higher as traders gain confidence from fiscal cliff deal

TORONTO – Stock markets raced higher Wednesday as trading resumed for the first time since the U.S. Congress agreed on measures to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

The deal, reached just before midnight Tuesday night, left several issues unresolved and it was unclear how long markets would be lifted by the agreement.

But traders took to the developments positively at first glance.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 87.83 points at 12,521.36 in late-morning trading, about half the gain made earlier in the session. The TSX Venture Exchange was ahead 17.28 points at 1,238.58.

The Canadian dollar rose one cent to 101.51 cents US.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial jumped 223.88 points to 13,328.02, the Nasdaq rose 66.19 points to 3,085.70 and the S&P 500 index gained 24.83 points to 1,451.02.

The bill that Congress approved calls for higher taxes on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for President Barack Obama. Earnings above those amounts would be taxed at a rate of 39.6 per cent, up from 35 per cent. It also delays for two months $109 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts set to start taking affect this week.

Though fiscal cliff fears have eased, investors still have a host of issues to worry about — not least the prospect of more debates over unresolved longer-term U.S. budget issues.

Next up is a fight over the debt ceiling, or how much the government is allowed to borrow. Obama has said he will not negotiate the issue.

In commodities, oil prices rose with the February contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange ahead $1.11 to US$92.93 a barrel.

The TSX gold sector was up 0.8 per cent as the March bullion contract moved ahead $13.90 to US$1,689.70 an ounce. Copper prices for the March contract were up nine cents to US$3.74 a pound.

Metals and mining stocks were the biggest gainer, rising 3.1 per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) was up $1.19 to $37.34.

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) shares gained two cents to $11.82 as reports surfaced that Apple may be testing its next iPhone model with a mid-year release date target.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares jumped 2.2 per cent to 6,028, its first foray above the 6,000 mark since July 2011. The CAC-40 in France rose 2.3 per cent to 3,726 while Germany’s DAX was up 2.3 per cent at 7,755.

Earlier, in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shot up 2.9 per cent to close at 23,311.89, its highest finish since June 1, 2011. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 surged 1.2 per cent to close at 4,705.90, its best finish in 19 months, while South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.7 per cent to 2,031.10.