Miners boost TSX amid economic concerns, Dow backs off after record highs

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed modestly higher Tuesday as energy and mining stocks ran ahead on higher prices for oil and metals.

But the index was held back in part by BlackBerry (TSX:BB) as its new product started presales in the U.S.

The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 20.09 points to 12,878.58.

The Canadian dollar inched up 0.03 of a cent to 97.46 cents US.

U.S. indexes had started the day off lower as traders wondered if the recent rally that has driven indexes to multi-year highs is running out of steam.

But by the close, the Dow industrials inched up 2.77 points to another record-high close of 14,450.06, its sixth straight record-high close. The Nasdaq index fell 10.55 points to 3,242.32 while the S&P 500 index shed 3.74 points to 1,552.48.

The mainly lacklustre performance on stock indexes reflects soft Chinese industrial production and retail sales figures which came out last weekend and raised concerns about the pace of the world’s second biggest economy.

In addition, higher-than-expected inflation of 3.2 per cent in February raised questions about the Chinese government’s ability to do more to shore up the economy.

And on Tuesday, Britain’s Office for National Statistics released figures showing industrial production fell sharply during January, raising fears the country will suffer its third recession in not much more than four years.

Industrial production fell at a monthly rate of 1.2 per cent in January, in contrast to expectations for a modest 0.2 per cent rise.

However, the TSX is still up 3.8 per cent for the year so far with some support coming from the Dow’s recent strong runup.

“I do think there is inspiration flowing across the border from the south,” said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at Scotia Capital.

The Dow has surged more than 10 per cent so far this year.

In Toronto, the gold sector led advancers, up about 2.35 per cent while April bullion was ahead $13.70 to US$1,591.70 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) rose 73 cents to C$33.96.

Alamos Gold Inc. (TSX:AGI) is asking the B.C. Securities Commission to remove a “poison pill” anti-takeover defence erected by Aurizon Mines Ltd. (TSX:ARZ). The original Aurizon shareholder rights plan expired March 4 when Hecla Mining Co. came forward with a rival, friendly offer. Alamos says a second poison pill announced by Aurizon on Monday is designed to prevent shareholders from exercising their right to accept its proposal. Alamos shares gained 19 cents to $14.75 while Aurizon was ahead four cents at $4.55.

May copper rose four cents to US$3.55 a pound, boosting the base metals sector by 0.61 per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) gained 29 cents to C$31.62.

Labrador Iron Mines Holdings Ltd. (TSX:LIM) surged 19 cents or 29.23 per cent to 84 cents. The company and a subsidiary of India’s Tata Steel Ltd. have reached a strategic co-operation pact. Labrador Iron has agreed to sell a 51 per cent stake in its Howse deposit to Tata Steel Minerals Canada for $30 million cash and the right to acquire a deposit from TSMC. The agreement also calls for the companies to share a rail line and other equipment to carry ore from the Labrador-Quebec border area to the port of Sept-Iles, Que.

The energy sector rose 0.14 per cent while the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 48 cents to US$92.54 a barrel. Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) was up 12 cents to C$12.56 as the company said it has signed a deal with SBM Offshore to cancel and scrap its Yme project in the North Sea, which has faced a number of problems and delays. The company said a new solution is needed in order to develop the Yme field.

PetroBakken Energy Ltd. (TSX:PBN) declined 17 cents to $8.28 as it said it plans $675 million in capital spending this year, about 30 per cent less than in 2012 or 2011 before adjusting for dispositions. The Calgary-based oil and gas producer also says it had $106.9 million of adjusted net income, or 55 cents per share. Revenue was $296.5 million and funds from operations was $168.3 million, or 88 cents per share.

The tech sector led losing components. Shares in BlackBerry (TSX:BB) fell 46 cents or 3.01 per cent to $14.83 on very heavy volume of 9.6 million shares as U.S. telecom AT&T started presales of the company’s new Z10 touchscreen smartphone, leading up to an official U.S. release on March 22. The company said on Monday that the phone will sell for US$199.99 under a two-year contract. The stock had surged 14 per cent Monday amid high hopes for the smartphone in the highly competitive U.S. market.

The consumer staples sector was also weak with shares in convenience store chain Alimentation Couche Tard (TSX:ATD.B) down $1.92 to $54.87.

The parent of the Sobeys grocery chain, Nova Scotia-based Empire Company Ltd. (TSX:EMP.A), says it had $75.2 million of net income in its financial third quarter. The profit amounted to $1.11 per share while adjusted earnings were slightly higher at $79.6 million or $1.17 per share. Revenue for the three months ended Feb. 2 was $4.34 billion, most of it from Sobeys. Empire shares slipped 65 cents to $64.62.

The TSX Venture Exchange edged up 2.88 points to 1,119.15.