BUSINESS

TSX closes higher on resource stocks while Wall Street eyes Apple profits

04/25/2012 09:03 EDT | Updated 06/25/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market finished higher Wednesday as the resource sector led gains, while a muted reaction to the latest statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve gave way to a stronger focus on earnings, particularly from Apple Inc.

The S&P/TSX composite index moved ahead 130.96 points to 12,111.06, while the TSX Venture Exchange gained 5.35 points to 1,371.12.

The Fed's lack of market-moving news left investors to refocus on a series of generally positive quarterly earnings reports, particularly a surprisingly strong report from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), and stronger commodity prices.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.47 of a cent to 101.68 cents US.

Apple's stock shot up about $50 a share after the company reported stunning earnings after markets closed on Tuesday.

The company said its net income in the fiscal second quarter was $11.6 billion, or $12.30 per share. That was nearly double the net income of $6 billion, or $6.40 per share, a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $10.07 per share.

Revenue at Apple was $39.2 billion, up 59 per cent from a year ago. Analysts had been expecting $37 billion.

Financial markets hardly shifted their position when the Federal Reserve said it would stick with its plan to keep a key short-term interest rate near zero. The Fed detailed no plans to extend its bond-buying program when the current iteration ends in June.

Investors will likely turn to key data for some idea of where the economy is headed. The U.S. gross domestic product numbers are slated for Friday, while the U.S. jobs report is released May 4.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged higher following the Fed's announcement.

"I think the Federal Reserve is trying to put themselves in such a position, and the U.S. economy in a position, whereby ... (they are) trying to prevent things from getting worse again," said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at Scotia Capital.

"That's one of the things that's hampering the econony and that is the lack of faith in the housing market in the United States."

The Dow Jones industrials rose 89.16 points to 13,090.72, the Nasdaq composite index was up 68.03 points to 3,029.63 and the S&P 500 index was 18.72 points higher at 1,390.69.

In commodities, the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended up 57 cents to US$104.12 a barrel, while the TSX energy sector moved up 2.06 per cent.

Gold bullion prices backed down $1.50 to close at US$1,642.30 an ounce.

Copper prices were down less than a cent to US$3.69 a pound.

The TSX materials index was up 2.8 per cent with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX:POT) rising 3.9 per cent, or $1.62, to $43.65.

The telecom sector was the only decliner, off 1.6 per cent. Late Tuesday, Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) reported its adjusted profit dropped 16 per cent to $356 million as competition increased, while its revenues dipped one per cent to 2.95 billion, missing analyst expectations of $3.05 billion. Its shares fell more than 5.5 per cent per cent, or $2.21, to $36.81.

In Canadian earnings news, Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) reported net profit of $12 million for the first quarter of 2012, compared with a net loss of $361 million in the same period last year. Company shares were up 71 cents to $18.36.

Nexen Inc. (TSX:NXY) reported first-quarter net income of $171 million, or 32 cents per share, a decrease from 202 million, or 38 cents per share, in the same period of 2011. Consolidated revenue was just under $1.7 billion, up from just under $1.6 billion in the prior-year period. Its shares rose 10 cents to $19.10.

Heavy equipment dealer Toromont Industries Ltd. (TSX:TIH) said first-quarter revenue was $281.5 million, up eight per cent from $261.1 million a year ago on higher equipment sales, product support and rentals. The company's net income was $17.2 million or 22 cents per share for the quarter ended March 31, down from $21.6 million or 28 cents per share a year earlier. Shares dipped 53 cents to $21.89.

In the U.S., Exxon is raising its quarterly dividend by 21 per cent, becoming the top corporate dividend payer, surpassing AT&T. The oil giant's payout will be 57 cents from 47 cents in the first quarter. That brings its annual dividend to $2.28 per share. Exxon reports earnings on Thursday.

Boeing was the best performer among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow after saying its first-quarter profit soared 58 per cent. Airlines around the world are updating their fleets with more fuel-efficient planes.

Shares in Harley-Davidson were up after U.S. sales of the company's motorcycles soared 26 per cent in the first three months of the year, the fourth straight increase.