TSX lower amid falling gold prices, heavy slate of earnings, solid U.S. growth

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed lower Thursday as a sell-off in gold stocks accelerated alongside a drop bullion prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 68.88 points to 14,458.69 as traders also balanced a strong reading on U.S. third-quarter economic growth.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.04 of a cent to 89.32 cents US.

U.S. growth in the July-September period came in at an annualized pace of 3.5 per cent. Economists had expected a gain of three per cent.

A strong showings by credit card payment company Visa also helped lift New York markets and the Dow Jones industrials ran up 221.11 points to 17,195.42.

The Nasdaq was up 16.91 points at 4,566.14 and the S&P 500 index climbed 12.35 points to 1,994.65 .

Traders also considered an investing environment without massive stimulus from the Federal Reserve a day after the U.S. central bank said its third round of quantitative easing would end this month. The massive program of buying bonds was seen as a huge benefit to stock markets as the program kept long-term rates low and encouraged a strong rally.

Quantitative easing had also helped support higher gold prices because of worries the stimulus program would stoke inflation. But gold prices continued to retreat Thursday as the December contract dropped $26.30 to US$1,198.60 an ounce and the TSX gold sector fell almost eight per cent.

“Longer term, gold prices should move with inflation expectations and with inflation coming down, obviously that is going to hurt,” said Ben Jang, portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

“Also, with gold prices around US$1,200 an ounce, we‘re just below the marginal cost of production for gold. So you really need to see the gold companies improve their operations. If not, we will continue to see volatility in gold equities.”

Commodity prices were also hit by a U.S. currency that strengthened following the Fed announcement. A stronger greenback makes it more expensive for holders of other currencies to buy oil and metals, which are dollar-denominated.

Lower gold prices are affecting major producers such as Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G), which lost US$44 million or five cents per share in its latest quarter compared with a profit of $5 million or a penny per share a year ago. Revenue totalled $1.09 billion, down from $1.16 billion in the same quarter last year and its shares fell $3.20 or 13.3 per cent to $20.84.

Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI) tumbled $1.02 or 17 per cent to $4.99 after it reported a US$1.02-billion loss in its latest quarter and slashed its dividend.

Other resource sectors headed south as prices for oil and metals also retreated.

The base metals component fell 3.65 per cent as December copper lost four cents to US$3.06 a pound.

The energy sector shed 1.3 per cent as the December crude contract in New York fell $1.08 to US$81.12 a barrel.

Suncor Energy’s (TSX:SU) earnings ex-items were 89 cents a share, versus the 77 cents that analysts had expected. Revenue was $10.3 billion, compared to $10.4 billion a year earlier and its shares gained 15 cents to $39.

The TSX found support from industrial, tech and financial stocks.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) says its third-quarter revenues were up about 20 per cent from the same time last year, rising to US$4.9 billion. Earnings ex-items were 12 cents a share, beating estimates of nine cents and its shares dipped six cents to $3.81.

Visa, the world’s largest payment-processing company reported quarterly earnings that were higher than analysts’ forecasts, thanks to more transactions. Its stock jumped just over 10 per cent.