BUSINESS

TSX lower amid falling commodities, N.Y tumbles despite strong economic data

05/31/2013 08:21 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Mining and energy stocks led the way to a sharply lower session on the Toronto stock market Friday as demand concerns dented commodity prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 96.14 points to 12,650.42.

Falling commodity prices punished the Canadian dollar even as economic growth data came in better than expected.

The loonie was down 0.64 of a cent to 96.45 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 2.5 per cent during the first quarter, which was higher than the 2.3 per cent reading that had been expected.

Statistics Canada also said that GDP growth for March came in at 0.2 per cent, higher than the 0.1 per cent increase that economists had expected.

U.S. indexes were lacklustre as traders balanced a disappointing report on personal spending data with a stronger than expected showing from the manufacturing sector and encouraging consumer confidence numbers.

The Dow Jones industrials plunged 208.96 points to 15,115.57, the Nasdaq dropped 35.38 points to 3,455.91 while the S&P 500 index was down 23.67 points to 1,630.74.

The Toronto market dipped a slight 23 points for the week while the Dow industrials gave back 188 points or 1.22 per cent as cracks started to show up in a rally that has gone on practically non-stop since late last year.

Americans cut back on spending in April after their income failed to grow.

The U.S. Commerce Department says American consumer spending dropped a seasonally adjusted 0.2 per cent in April, the most since last May. That follows a 0.1 per cent increase in March.

Income was unchanged last month, after a 0.3 per cent rise in March.

But a key reading on manufacturing in the U.S. Midwest came in much better than expected. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for May came in at 58.7, higher than the 49.9 reading that had been expected and a big improvement from the 3.5-year low of 49 posted in April. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

"The Chicago PMI is normally more stable and less prone to violent swings than other regional surveys, and so the increase is encouraging sign particularly with many other surveys showing continued weakness," said CIBC World Markets senior economist Andrew Grantham.

"The detail showed all components improving, with a particularly strong increase in the production index."

Other data showed the final reading of the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey for May edged up to 83.8, the best level in more than six years.

Commodity prices were weak with July crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange down $1.64 to US$91.97 a barrel. The energy sector was down almost one per cent and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) stepped back $1.04 to C$30.90.

The base metals sector dropped 2.7 per cent while July copper edged two cents lower to US$3.29 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) lost 90 cents to C$27.69 while HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) dropped 47 cents to $8.25.

Financials were also a weight, down one per cent as CIBC (TSX:CM) shed 87 cents to $78.35 after investment banking firm KBW cut its price target to $76. It cited a potential for lower earnings and risk from the company’s Aeroplan agreement with Aimia. The agreement is set to expire at the end of the year.

June gold fell $19 to US$1,393 an ounce, taking the gold sector down about 0.5 per cent. Iamgold Inc. (TSX:IMG) faded 38 cents to C$5.43.

There was also acquisition activity in the mining sector.

New Gold Inc. (TSX:NGD) has reached a friendly deal to acquire Rainy River Resources Ltd. (TSX:RR), which has an advanced gold project in Ontario. The offer values Rainy River at about $310 million, net of its cash balance.

New Gold is offering $3.83 per share to Rainy River shareholders. New Gold shares declined 61 cents to $7.05 while Rainy River surged 94 cents to $3.64.

Centerra shares were 33 cents lower to $3.82 as hundreds of protesters attempted to storm the company's office in eastern Kyrgyzstan Friday, near the village of Barskoon. The incident came after a protest that began earlier this week to demand that Centerra's Kumtor mine be nationalized. The mine is the largest foreign-owned gold mine in the former Soviet Union.

Trading has been volatile this week amid doubts about how long the U.S. Federal Reserve will carry on with its program of quantitative easing. The so-called QE3 involves the Fed buying up US$85 billion of bonds every month to keep long term rates low and encourage lending.

But U.S. indexes have charged ahead strongly during May. For this month alone, the Dow industrial average has gained almost two per cent, leaving the blue chip barometer up about 15 per cent year to date.

The Toronto market hasn't fared nearly as well, gaining about 1.8 per cent for this month and the year to date, with some of the greatest declines coming from the base metals sector amid weak demand for commodities and a stubbornly slow global economic recovery.

In other corporate news, Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) was 75 cents lower to $105.21 after JPMorgan Chase upgraded its stock to neutral from underweight with a target price of $110.

CVTech Group Inc. shares surged 20 per cent to $1.48 before trading was halted Friday morning after a leading investor disclosed a takeover bid that was twice rebuffed by the company. Gestion G. Aubert Ltd. disclosed that a leading NYSE-listed electrical contractor offered $1.95 per share, representing a 70 per cent premium.