Empire in focus
The Toronto stock market forged slightly ahead, perhaps easing the blow of a losing week as traders took profits amid a new round of concerns about the U.S. economy.
The S&P/TSX composite index gained 27.54 points to greet noon at 15,058.28
The Canadian dollar nicked up 0.12 cents to 93.67 cents U.S.
In corporate news, energy producer EnCana has reached an agreement with Alberta-based Jupiter Resources to sell its Bighorn properties in the province for about $1.8 billion U.S.
Encana has sold a number of its assets in recent months and is focusing on a half-dozen core growth areas in specific regions. EnCana shares withered 31 cents, or 1.2\%, to $25.27.
First Quantum Minerals has temporarily halted construction activity at its Cobre Panama project due to an illegal work stoppage by some members of its construction workforce. It said the dispute centres around the work roster. First Quantum shares gained six cents to $22.57.
Consumer staple issues were among the major movers by noon time, as Empire Company, parent company of the Sobeys chain, climbed $2.90, or 4.3\%, to $70.59, having announced the closure of dozens of underperforming stores.
On the economic slate, Statistics Canada reported this morning that its Raw Materials Price Index declined 0.4\%, mostly as a result of lower prices for animals and animal products.
Its Industrial Product Price Index was down 0.5\% in May, mainly because of lower prices for energy and petroleum products.
The TSX Venture Exchange picked up 3.48 points to 1,016.62
All but two of the 14 Toronto subgroups were higher, led by metals and mining, up 1.2\%, while consumer staples gained 0.8\% and consumer discretionaries advanced 0.5\%.
The two naysayers were industrials, down 0.3\%, and energy, slipped 0.2\%.
U.S. stocks were flat on Friday, pointing to a week of modest losses as recent data painted a mixed picture of economic growth, though Wall Street's 2014 rally was expected to continue into the second half of the year.
The Dow Jones Industrials stopped for lunch down 31.75 points to 16,814.38.
The S&P 500 slid 0.57 points to 1,956.65, and the NASDAQ composite gained 7.62 points to 4,386.67.
For the week, the Dow is down 0.8\% and the S&P is down 0.3\%. The NASDAQ, which is up 0.4\%, is on track for its sixth weekly rise out of the past seven.
With the second quarter nearing a close, the S&P 500 is up about 5.9\% year-to-date.
Nike Inc. rose 1.6\% to $78.15 U.S. a day after its fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations.
However, those gains were offset on the Dow index as DuPont, a fellow component, cut its full-year operating profit outlook, sending shares down 4.3\% to $64.81 U.S.
In company news, Relational Investors LLC late Thursday disclosed an 8.5\% stake in Manitowoc Co Inc and said it would separate it into two companies. Shares of Manitowoc jumped 8.6\% to $32.26 U.S. on heavy trading.
Keurig Green Mountain Inc rose 4.6\% to $126.03 U.S. as the S&P's biggest gainer after Argus Research upgraded the stock to "buy" from "hold."
On the downside, Dollar General Corp was the S&P 500's biggest decliner, off 6.9\% to $57.40 U.S. after the company's chief executive announced his retirement effective next May.
U.S. consumer sentiment rose more than expected, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final June reading, though that follows weak reads on consumer spending and first-quarter economic activity earlier this week.
Prices for 10-year U.S. Treasuries were lower, returning yields back up to Thursday's 2.52\%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil prices shed 23 cents to $105.61 U.S. a barrel.
Gold prices took on $4.30 to $1,321.30 U.S. an ounce.
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