TSX down amid CN revenue miss, miners up on reassurances on China growth

07/23/2013 08:33 EDT | Updated 09/22/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed slightly lower Tuesday, weighed down by an earnings report from industrial heavyweight Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR).

However, mining stocks got a lift after China’s leadership indicated it would take measures to support the economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 13 points to 12,745.38, after running ahead for the past four sessions.

Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) depressed the TSX even as the railroad handed in quarterly earnings that beat expectations following the close Monday.

CN earned $717 million or $1.69 per diluted share, up from $631 million or $1.44 per diluted share a year ago. Ex-items, CN earned $1.66 per share, up from $1.50 per share a year ago and four cents ahead of estimates.

Revenue totalled $2.67 billion, up from $2.54 billion and slightly below estimates of $2.7 billion and its shares fell $3.37 or 3.2 per cent to $101.68 as CN also cautioned that a slowdown in grain and fertilizer exports during the summer months could make for a challenging second half of the year.

Rival Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP), which posts earnings Wednesday, lost $2.44 to $130.18.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.56 of a cent to 97.23 cents US after retail sales for May came in much better than expected. Statistics Canada reported that sales ran up 1.9 per cent, much higher than the 0.4 per cent gain that economists had expected.

The agency said the largest sales increase in dollar terms was a 4.3 per cent gain at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

Meanwhile, Chinese media said Premier Li Keqiang said that growth wouldn't go below seven per cent. He also said that China’s economic growth needs to be kept above that minimum, according to Beijing News and reaffirmed 7.5 per cent as this year’s growth target.

The report cleared uncertainty about how much China's government would let the economy slow as it tries to shift the basis of growth toward domestic consumption and away from reliance on exports and industrial investment.

"Clearly them putting the floor on growth is comforting because for starters, you never really can be that confident about the data out of China," said Wes Mills, chief investment officer Scotia Asset Management PM Advisor Services.

U.S. indexes were mixed as traders took in a solid earnings report from United Technologies and looked ahead to earnings from Apple Inc. after the close.

The Dow Jones industrials gained 22.19 points to a new all-time closing high of 15,567.74, the Nasdaq composite index declined 21.12 points to 3,579.27 and the S&P 500 index was down 3.14 points to 1,692.39.

United Technologies climbed $3.05, or 2.99 per cent, to US$105.16. The conglomerate said second quarter earnings ran up 17 per cent as strong orders for its Otis elevator business in China and commercial airline parts helped lift sales and profits.

After the close, tech giant Apple turned in results that were slightly better than expected with earnings per share of $7.47, a bit higher than the $7.32 a share that analysts had expected. Revenue came in at $35.3 billion, slightly higher than the $35.02 billion that was forecast.

Apple shares had closed down $7.32 or 1.7 per cent to US$418.99 in New York and rose about three per cent in after hours trading in New York.

After the close Monday, online video streaming company Netflix said it earned $29.5 million, or 49 cents per share, in the latest quarter, up from $6.2 million, or 11 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts had forecast earnings of 40 cents per share. Netflix’s revenue climbed 20 per cent to $1.07 billion, mirroring analyst projections. But it failed to meet expectations for new subscribers and its stock declined 4.47 per cent to $250.26.

Beyond the slide in railway stocks, the financial sector was the biggest decliner on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down 0.44 per cent with Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) down 61 cents to $58.35.

The base metals sector led advancers, up 3.73 per cent with September copper up a cent at US$3.20 a pound after gaining five cents on Monday. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) climbed 40 cents to C$24.37.

The gold sector erased early losses to move up about 2.25 per cent, adding to Monday's gain of over six per cent, down about 0.7 per cent while August bullion lost $1.30 to US$1,334.70. Bullion ran ahead $43 to a nearly five-week high Monday, its biggest one-day gain since June, 2012. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) rose 32 cents or 6.07 per cent to C$5.59.

The energy sector was flat while the September crude contract gained 25 cents to US$107.19. Prices fell almost $1 Monday following the release of soft existing home sales data and ahead of the latest inventory data. Wednesday's report on U.S. crude and fuel stockpiles from the Energy Information Administration will be watched for confirmation that the recent trend of falling inventories, which suggests stronger demand, is continuing.

Sharp drops in U.S. crude supplies for the past three weeks have helped propel oil to its highest price in about 16 months. Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) advanced 21 cents to C$12.22.

In other corporate news, AlarmForce Industries Inc. (TSX:AF) said Tuesday it has “terminated” chief executive Joel Matlin after a strategic review of the company. Matlin, who holds a nearly eight per cent stake in the company, will continue to serve as a company director. AlarmForce completed a nearly year-long strategic review, including a possible sale of the company, earlier this month without a deal. It shares were up 20 cents to $10.