Toronto stock market advances, resource sectors positive after sharp sell-off

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed higher Tuesday with the resource sectors positive as buyers started to nibble at companies that have sustained a severe mauling because of a steep drop in oil prices and other economic concerns.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 51.56 points to 14,195.73.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.32 of a cent to 87.41 cents US.

Worries that last week’s positive jobs creation data could result in the U.S. Federal Reserve moving sooner than expected to raise interest rates punished most U.S. indexes.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 51.28 points to 17,801.2 and the S&P 500 index dipped 0.49 of a point to 2,059.82, while the Nasdaq gained 25.78 points to 4,766.47.

Oil prices rose 77 cents to US$63.82 a barrel after tumbling almost US$3 a barrel Monday in the wake of weak trade data from China and a report from Morgan Stanley that suggested prices for Brent crude, an international benchmark, could fall to as low as US$43 a barrel next year.

The TSX energy sector closed up 1.13 per cent Tuesday — but the component, which makes up 23 per cent of the TSX, is still under water almost 20 per cent year to date as markets try to work out a huge imbalance in supply and demand.

“The energy space is almost looking like capitulation,” observed Paul Vaillancourt, executive vice-president, private wealth, at Fiera Capital in Calgary.

“When we see days like this, they’re expected. Never waste an opportunity and in this situation here . . . fear and panic have resulted in some pretty indiscriminate selling.”

Canadian energy companies continue to be impacted by plunging oil prices. Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE) is reducing its monthly dividend by more than half to 10 cents a month. The company is also cutting 2015 spending plans by 30 per cent from earlier estimates as well as its production ranges. Baytex shares gained 44 cents to $16.90.

Another bright spot on the TSX was Talisman Energy Inc. (TSX:TLM), which said several parties, including Spanish energy company Repsol, have approached it about potential deals. Talisman and Repsol held inconclusive talks during the summer but the Calgary company’s shares have plunged about 60 per cent since then, making it a more attractive takeover target. Its shares rose 11.85 per cent to $4.81.

Miners also provided some lift to the TSX, with the gold sector ahead 4.4 per cent as February bullion gained $37.10 to US$1,232 an ounce.

The base metals sector was up 2.25 per cent as March copper rose four cents to US$2.93 a pound.

Elsewhere, Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) had a quarterly net loss of $13 million or seven cents a share and “normalized” earnings of $116 million, both improvements from the same time last year. Retail sales nearly doubled to $1.91 billion from $984 million a year earlier and its shares edged up 51 cents to $24.

Financials led decliners, down 0.3 per cent. Financials have been steadily sliding since last week after the big banks delivered a mixed bag of earnings and warned of a challenging 2015. Investors have been cutting their exposure to banks because of worries that falling oil will negatively impact economic growth and cut back on bank lending.

AGF Management Ltd. (TSX:AGF.B) was the major drag on the sector Tuesday, down 14.65 per cent to $8.28 after the company said it would cut its quarterly dividend by 70 per cent to eight cents a share as of the first quarter of 2015.