Strong showing by BlackBerry helps push TSX higher amid weak Chinese data

TORONTO – Optimism that BlackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone will make a big splash in the U.S. helped push the Toronto stock market slightly higher Monday.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 22.87 points to 12,858.49 and the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 1.58 points to 1,116.27.

BlackBerry (TSX:BB) shares ran up $1.86 or 13.85 per cent to $15.29 amid news that the company’s new Z10 smartphone will go on sale in the U.S. on March 22 through AT&T. The Z10 has already launched in Canada and the U.K. to date. But a success in the U.S. smartphone market is considered key to the new BlackBerrys.

The Canadian dollar edged up 0.26 of a cent to 97.43 cents US.

In New York, the Dow Jones racked up yet another record high close, as it did in a string of higher closes last week. The Dow has now recouped all the losses resulting from the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed.

The blue chip barometer gained 50.22 points to 14,447.29, the Nasdaq composite index edged 8.51 points higher to 3,252.87 and the S&P 500 index was up 5.04 points to 1,556.22.

Commodity prices and TSX resource stocks had earlier retreated following the release of weaker than expected Chinese economic data over the weekend.

Industrial production was up 9.9 per cent year over year in January while retail sales rose 12.3 per cent in February. However, both figures were below expectations and weaker than the previous month.

Worries also grew that China’s central bank is reining in lending as other figures showed that new loans came in at a less than expected 620 billion yuan.

On top of it all, China’s inflation rate was 3.2 per cent in February, which was also higher than economists expected.

Analysts also cautioned that the Chinese numbers were likely impacted by the country’s Lunar New Year holiday period and suggested it would take a few more months of data to get a clearer picture. But they point out that China is still a star economic performer, just not as strong as before.

“It’s slowing down from its best levels but the whole world economy has slowed their growth,” said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Financial.

“And China feels the same pain but it still has a much, much higher growth rate than any around the world and so when you look at it from that perspective, it’s still a strong area of growth.”

That sentiment was evident on the metals market where May copper shook off early declines to close a cent higher at US$3.52 a pound. The base metals also recovered early losses and closed slightly higher.

Inmet Mining Corp. (TSX:IMN) continues to be in play. It’s the target of a $5.1-billion hostile takeover offer from First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (TSX:FM), which has said its offer of stock and cash worth about $72 per share will expire later Monday. Toronto-based Inmet has recommended that shareholders reject First Quantum’s bid, although it hasn’t produced a superior offer. Inmet shares rose 11 cents to C$68.63 while First Quantum was 22 cents higher at $20.64.

The energy sector also moved into positive territory, up 0.27 per cent with April crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 11 cents to US$92.06 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) gained 13 cents at C$31.58 .

The gold sector was the biggest TSX drag, down about 0.45 per cent as April bullion gained $1.10 to US$1,578 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) faded 33 cents to C$33.23.

The board of Aurizon Mines Ltd. (TSX:ARZ) has adopted a new shareholder rights plan, saying it wants to prevent Alamos Gold Inc. (TSX:AGI) from using its voting power to defeat a better takeover offer from a rival company. Alamos already owns 16 per cent of Aurizon and has offered to buy up the rest of its stock.

Aurizon’s board is supporting a rival offer from Hecla Mining Co. and said Monday that its new rights plan will ensure all shareholders are treated equally. Alamos shares added two cents at C$14.56 while Aurizon shares were four cents lower at $4.51.

Consumer staples stocks also weighed on the TSX as Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MFI) gave back 59 cents to $12.91.

In other corporate news, Clearwater Seafoods Inc. (TSX:CLR) shares rose 12 cents to $5.09 as it reported quarterly net income of $10.5 million or 17 cents a basic share, down from $16.4 million a year ago. It also posted record revenues of $350.4 million for all of 2012.

On the domestic economic front, data coming out at the end of the week is expected to show the Canadian housing market is cooling at a faster pace. Existing home sales for February are expected to show a 12.5 per cent year-over-year decline following a 5.2 per cent slide in January. Average prices for February are expected to slip one per cent.

In the U.S., investors will take in the February report on retail sales on Wednesday. It is expected sales rose by 0.5 per cent following a 0.1 per cent rise in January.