Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stock markets up on earnings; Canadian dollar at 14 1/2-year high

14:42:51 EDT Apr 26, 2006
MALCOLM MORRISON

TORONTO (CP) - Base and precious metals stock helped lift the Toronto stock market slightly higher Wednesday afternoon as investors took in another slew of positive earnings reports.
The Canadian dollar was up 0.29 of a cent at a 14 1/2-year high of 88.65 cents US, a day after the Bank of Canada raised interest rates and said another hike is likely.
'There is certainly not a lot of inducement to buy (stocks) right now,' said Julie Brough, assistant vice-president at Morgan, Meighen and Associates. 'It does look a little bit tired and the valuations, in my mind, are not anything to get excited about.'
U.S. indexes were higher on some better-than-expected corporate earnings reports, a broker upgrade for General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM) and positive economic data.
Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index was 21.67 points higher at 12,351.46, held back by declines in tech stocks and energy stocks as oil continued to move away from last week's record highs.
The TSX Venture Exchange moved down 3.38 points to 3,091.61.
Wall Street's Dow Jones industrial average gained 62.44 points to 11,345.69, with GM jumping $1.31 to $22.72 US after Merrill Lynch upgraded the automaker one notch to 'neutral' from 'sell,' citing beliefs that its restructuring plan is moving in the right direction.
The Nasdaq rose 3.15 points to 2,333.45 while the S&P 500 was up 4.44 points at 1,306.18.
In economic news, the U.S. Commerce Department said orders of durable goods jumped 6.1 per cent in March, more than triple the 1.8 per cent economists predicted. The department also said new home sales climbed 14 per cent to 1.21 million for the month, handily beating estimates for 1.1 million despite the rebound in mortgage rates.
The base-metals sector climbed one per cent, with AUR Resources Inc. (TSX:AUR) ahead 55 cents at $16.55.
Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. (TSX:IVN) has agreed to exchange its Mongolian coal interests to Asia Gold Corp. (TSXV:ASG) for a majority stake in the junior miner. Ivanhoe shares advanced 19 cents to $10.97 while Asia Gold shares surged 29 per cent to $2.70.
The June contract for bullion on the Nymex was up $7.80 to $642 US an ounce, taking the TSX gold sector ahead 0.95 per cent. Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K) added 14 cents to $13.62.
Elsewhere in the materials sector, Alcan Inc. (TSX:AL) moved up $1.39 to $59.75 and Gerdau Ameristeel (TSX:GNA) rose 35 cents to $12.35.
The TSX energy sector fell 0.3 per cent as the June contract for light sweet crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 63 cents at $72.25 US a barrel.
Prices headed lower as the U.S. Energy Department said gasoline inventories fell 1.9 million barrels last week while crude stocks fell 200,000 barrels.
Shares in EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) were 63 cents higher to $58.23 after the company said it is boosting its quarterly dividend as first-quarter profit jumped to $1.47 billion US on a huge accounting gain, while operating profit rose 14 per cent to $694 million US.
After its first reporting period as an income trust, Precision Drilling Trust (TSX:PD.UN) said its first-quarter profit rose to $224.2 million, from a year-earlier $138.5 million, and it will boost its distributions to unitholders by 15 per cent to 31 cents a unit. The company's units were up 50 cents to $41.60.
Information technology stocks losing ground included Nortel Networks Corp., (TSX:NT), down four cents to $2.97.
Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (TSX:POT) shares fell 79 cents to $103.89 after the company reported a net profit of $125.5 million US, down from $131.3 million US for the same period last year as a pricing dispute cut fertilizer shipments to China.
Newsprint giant Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. (TSX:A) is cutting jobs and has narrowed its first-quarter loss to $33 million from $51 million a year ago as rising prices and tighter inventories helped the company improve its finances. Its shares fell 16 cents to $4.87.
Nova Chemicals shares (TSX:NCX) declined 19 cents to $34.03 as the firm swung to a first-quarter loss of $5 million US from a year-earlier profit of $94 million US.
Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX:MFI) earned a $17.3-million profit in the first quarter of 2006, compared with $12.7 million in the year-ago period. Its shares edged seven cents higher to $12.90.
Fuel cell maker Ballard Power Systems (TSX:BLD) has cut its first-quarter loss to $17.2 million US from a year-earlier $32.4 million and revenues rose 14 per cent to $12.5 million US. Its shares gained 52 cents to $11.68 Cdn.
In the U.S., Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) shares added 32 cents to $85.43 US as the company reported a better-than-expected 29 per cent jump in first-quarter profits.
Shares in PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP), the world's No. 2 soft-drink maker and owner of snacks maker Frito-Lay, were up 35 cents to $57.85 US after it said first-quarter profit jumped almost 12 per cent to $1.02 billion US.
Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZN) reported earnings dropped 35 per cent after a hefty gain boosted last year's profit. The online retailer's results still met Wall Street targets and its shares gained 26 cents to $35.81.

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