TORONTO – The Toronto stock market moved higher near midday Wednesday, led by metals and mining stocks as traders in the U.S. clung to hope that discussions over the looming “fiscal cliff” deadline would lead to a resolution.
The S&P/TSX composite index rose 70.06 points to 12,404.40, as key commodities prices moved higher. The TSX Venture Exchange gained 2.11 points to 1,178.11.
The Canadian dollar was down 0.09 of a cent to 101.36 cents US.
The TSX metals and mining sector gained 2.2 per cent, with Sherritt International (TSX:S) rising 5.6 per cent to $5.70 and Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) lifting two per cent to $36.22.
Energy stocks rose 0.9 per cent as the January crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $1.54 to US$89.47 a barrel.
March copper declined about four cents to US$3.61 a pound while February gold bullion moved ahead $3 to US$1,673.70 an ounce.
The potential budget deal in the U.S. has grabbed the focus of traders in recent sessions. While a compromise has yet to be reached between the White House and Congress, sentiment is holding relatively steady.
Markets appear mostly confident that President Barack Obama and Republican leaders will reach a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a series of automatic tax hikes and government spending cuts that will start coming into effect at the start of next year and have the potential of derailing the U.S economic recovery.
The Dow Jones industrials lost 12.48 points to 13,338.48 and the Nasdaq rose 1.52 points to 3,056.05. The S&P 500 index was off 1.9 points at 1,444.89.
The U.S. Commerce Department said that builders broke ground on fewer houses in November, likely in part due to superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast. The report says builders began construction of homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000. That’s three per cent lower than October’s annual rate of 888,000, which was the fastest since July 2008.
“Keep in mind that growth in housing starts was extremely strong in the prior three months, so some giveback is not a concern at this point, especially given what permits did in November,” BMO Capital Markets economist Robert Kavcic wrote in a note.
Meanwhile, the Teranet-National Bank Canadian housing price index fell in November from a month earlier. The composite index covering 11 major urban centres stood at 154.02 last month, down 0.4 per cent from October.
And Canadian bank CIBC is forecasting “very mediocre” domestic growth next year, blaming weakness in the world economy and an absence of key economic drivers at home. CIBC says it now expects economic growth of only 1.7 per cent in 2013, down from its previous estimate of two per cent.
General Motors will spend $5.5 billion to buy back 200 million shares of its stock from the U.S. Treasury by the end of this year. The Treasury plans to sell its remaining stake in GM over the next 15 months, allowing the automaker to shed the stigma of being partly owned by the American government. Shares of GM were up eight per cent to $27.62 in New York.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.6 per cent at 5,968 while Germany’s DAX rose 0.2 per cent at 7,667. The CAC-40 in France was 0.4 per cent higher at 3,661.
Earlier in Asia, stocks did well too, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index up 0.6 per cent to 22,623.37 and Shanghai’s main index of Chinese shares closing flat at 2,264.30.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index surged 2.4 per cent to close at 10,160.40, the first time the benchmark has closed above 10,000 since April 3.
The stock market advance came three days after a landslide election victory by the Liberal Democratic party. Shinzo Abe, head of the LDP, has pledged to keep the yen from strengthening and take measure to boost Japan’s deflation-mired economy.