TSX inches higher as BlackBerry shares fall, mining sector weakens

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed Friday with minor gains as investors sold off shares in mining companies and smartphone-maker BlackBerry.

The S&P/TSX composite gained 9.48 points at 12,757.35, while the TSX Venture Exchange gained 3.37 points to 1,106.35.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.09 of a cent to 97.72 cents US.

Also looming is the possibility of a resolution to the debt troubles in Cyprus could be in sight, as planning drags on into the weekend ahead of a Monday deadline.

On the TSX, the information technology sector was the biggest drag, falling 2.8 per cent, as BlackBerry (TSX:BB) shares fell eight per cent.

The company, which formerly called itself Research In Motion, ended the session down $1.33 to $15.19, on the day its new BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen smartphone hit shelves in the United States. AT&T began selling the phone on Friday, more than six weeks after the company launched the devices elsewhere.

TSX metals and mining stocks backed off one per cent, with First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) dropping 48 cents to $20.12.

On Wall Street, uncertainties with the economic future of Cyprus didn’t shake investors. The Mediterranean island nation’s banks have now been closed for a week and the European Central Bank has threatened to cut off an emergency program supporting them if a solution is not found by Monday.

Instead, U.S. earnings from Darden Restaurants, owner of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, beat Wall Street expectations on earnings for the quarter Friday, as did luxury retailer Tiffany. And Nike said late Thursday that third-quarter profits spiked 55 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrials lifted 90.54 points to 14,512.03. The Nasdaq was ahead 22.40 points at 3,245 and the S&P 500 index jumped 11.09 points to 1,556.89.

In commodities, the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $1.26 to settle at US$93.71 a barrel.

Gold stocks were lower as April bullion fell $7.70 to end at US$1,606.10 an ounce. The May copper contract gained 3.1 cents to US$3.466 a pound.

Canadian financial stocks gained 0.5 per cent, with Royal Bank (TSX:RY) rising 63 cents to $61.37.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveiled tighter rules for mortgages in Thursday’s federal budget. The budget said the government will restrict banks’ ability to insure conventional mortgages, those with over 20 per cent household equity, to only those used in Canada Mortgage and Housing securitization programs. As well, it said it will prohibit the use of government-backed insurance — both on conventional and heavily leveraged mortgages — as collateral if they are not sponsored by CMHC.

Stella-Jones Inc. (TSX:SJ) is increasing its dividend 25 per cent after closing out a record year in terms of sales and net income. The company said earnings were $16.5 million or $1 per diluted share, an increase from $13.4 million or 83 cents per diluted share a year earlier. Shares dropped 71 cents to $80.01.

North American paper giant Domtar Corp. (TSX:UFS) is acquiring Xerox’s paper and print media products business in Canada and the United States for an undisclosed price. Shares of Domtar rose 18 cents to $79.55.