TORONTO - The Toronto Stock Market closed higher Tuesday despite falling commodity prices and disappointing earnings reports from several big-name companies, including food distributor George Weston Ltd., WestJet Airlines and Husky Energy.
The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead by 10.19 points at 12,464.11, while the Canadian dollar climbed 0.24 of a cent to 99.51 cents US.
Analyst Kash Pashootan of Raymond James said the resource-heavy TSX is struggling under the weight of dropping prices in oil, gold and copper.
This downward trend in commodities, which has been around for at least the past two years, is likely to continue, he said.
"We're seeing a continuation of the slowdown in growth in the commodity space," said Pashootan from Ottawa.
"We're in the late innings of the commodities cycle, and the market is looking for conviction before commodity prices go up."
The June contract for gold bullion fell $19.20 to US$1,448.80 an ounce as the gold sector led with the most declines on the TSX with a drop of 2.84 per cent. Nearly all companies in the sector weakened including Aginico Eagle Mines (TSX:AEM), Alamos Gold (TSX:AGI) and Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX).
The July copper contract was down a penny at US$3.30 a pound, with the metals and mining sector falling by 0.43 per cent. Shares in Teck Resources were down by 0.11 per cent. Base metal miner First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (TSX:FM) beat analysts expectations by two cents per share as it reported Monday earnings of $153.8 million or 32 cents per share on revenue of $901.2 million. Its shares were up by 1.19 per cent to $17.80.
The June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange faded 68 cents to US$95.58 a barrel.
Meanwhile, Wall Street continued to see major gains, boosted by news that the Reserve Bank of Australia is lowering its official interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.75 per cent amid some signs the economy is weakening.
The Dow Jones industrials closed up 87.31 at 15,056.20, the highest close on record.
The S&P 500 also had a record close, advancing 8.46 points to 1,625.96 after climbing above 1,600 for the first time on Friday.
The boost comes after more than 80 per cent of companies in the S&P 500 index have reported first-quarter earnings, and profits are at a record level. Of companies that have reported, nearly 70 per cent have beaten the expectations of Wall Street analysts for income, according to S&P Capital IQ data.
The Nasdaq edged up 3.66 points to 3,396.63.
The U.S. also reported that employers posted fewer job openings in March compared with February. The Labor Department said job openings fell 1.4 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million jobs. Total hiring declined 4.3 per cent to 4.3 million.
In earnings news, Canada's second-largest airline reported its "best ever" quarter but left investors worried whether the carrier will be able to profitably fill its new capacity, sending its stocks down 7.48 per cent to $22.87.
WestJet earned $91.1 million or 68 cents per share in its latest quarter, up from $68.3 million or 49 cents per share in the same 2012 period. However, the airline said its load factor — a measure of how full its planes are flying — fell 3.5 percentage points to 82.7 during April, compared to the same month a year earlier.
Food processor and distributor giant George Weston Ltd. (TSX:WN) reported an almost 34 per cent increase in is first-quarter net earnings, due to foreign currency translation and amendments to its defined benefit pension plan among other things. However, the company's adjusted earnings missed analyst expectations by two cents per share and the stock closed up only slightly by 16 cents to $81.24.
Husky Energy (TSX:HSE) shares were down 19 cents to $29.73 after it reported its first-quarter profit was down from a year ago, as the price for its heavy crude oil came under pressure. The company said it earned $535 million or 54 cents per diluted share, down from $591 million or 60 cents per diluted share a year ago.
The only major Canadian data report on Wednesday is the release of April housing starts, which is anticipated to come in at 175,000 — the same rate as for March.
Pashootan said markets are also watching for the latest GDP numbers due out of China this week, which may indicate how the world's second-largest economy is doing.
If the reports are positive, it will likely drive up commodities. But if, as expected, they indicate a continuing slowdown, that will maintain a damper on prices.