BUSINESS

TSX ahead as Syria fears ease, banks turn in strong earns, telcos breathe easier

08/29/2013 08:41 EDT | Updated 10/29/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market registered a solid gain of almost 100 points mid-afternoon Thursday amid strong bank earnings and an easing of concerns over a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria.

The S&P/TSX composite index jumped 97.51 points to 12,704.73, with strength also coming from the three big telecoms on speculation that U.S. telco Verizon won't be entering the Canadian wireless market.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.41 of a cent at 94.96 cents US, the first time the loonie has closed below 95 cents since July 8.

CIBC (TSX:CM) posted net earnings of $890 million or $2.16 per diluted share in the most recent period while revenue rose to $3.26 billion from $3.15 billion. Adjusted net income was $943 million or $2.29 per share diluted, 14 cents ahead of estimates and its shares gained $2.22 to $82.66.

Royal Bank (TSX:RY) shares rose 75 cents to $65.24 as the bank reported record net income of $2.3 billion for the third quarter, an increase of three per cent from a year ago. Profit was $1.48 a share ex-items, beating expectations of $1.38. The bank also raised its dividend six per cent to 67 cents a share.

TD Bank’s (TSX:TD) quarterly net income was $1.53 billion or $1.58 per diluted share, compared with $1.7 billion or $1.78 per share a year ago amid losses on the insurance side of the business. However, earnings ex-items were $1.65 a share against estimates of $1.55 a share and the bank increased its quarterly dividend by four cents, or five per cent, to 85 cents per share. TD shares advanced $2.12 to $89.93.

Combined profits at the country’s biggest banks slipped to $7.63 billion in the third quarter, even though most of them reported stronger results for the period.

"It’s a mixed bag but they are doing well," said Ron Meisels, president of Phases and Cycles in Montreal.

"I believe the banks have found the secret of making money in all environments. Banks have gone into so many side businesses — investments, brokerage business, money management businesses — and they have a lot of ways of taking whatever is there in the economy."

Meanwhile, U.S. indexes advanced amid indications that a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria may not be happening imminently.

The latest reading on U.S. economic growth for the second quarter also came in better than expected. Annualized gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 2.5 per cent, better than the 2.2 per cent that economists expected. The original reading was 1.7 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 16.44 points to 14,840.95 even as the strong data again raised concerns that the Federal Reserve will start to reduce its monetary stimulus as soon as next month. A run of largely solid economic figures had raised the likelihood of the Fed slowing its monthly US$85 billion of bond purchases but some more recent the data have been a little bit more mixed.

The Nasdaq was 26.95 points higher at 3,620.3 while the S&P 500 index was 3.21 points higher at 1,638.17.

The prospect of an immediate multinational response diminished late Wednesday after the UN Security Council’s permanent members failed to agree to a proposal to use force against Syria. U.S. President Barack Obama also gave the impression that he had not yet decided to back a military strike.

There have been appeals to wait until UN inspectors reveal their findings on the apparent chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus that has been blamed on the government of President Bashar Assad. The report is expected within a week.

The prospect of intervention in the country's civil war has rattled markets this week as it has raised fears that such a move could seriously affect a fragile global economic recovery and that fighting could spread to other areas of the Mideast.

On the TSX, the telecom sector was the biggest percentage gainer, up 2.18 per cent with Telus Corp. (TSX:T) ahead 82 cents to $33.10, Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) rose $1.23 to $42.01 and BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) ran up 96 cents to $43.44.

Canadian telcos advanced as Britain’s Vodafone PLC confirmed that it was talking to Verizon Communications about selling its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless for as much as $130 billion.

That raised speculation that Verizon would not be interested in the possible purchase of at least one of the country’s smaller wireless players. Verizon has said it has had discussions but called it just an exploratory exercise.

Most of the resource sectors were in the red but the gold sector shed early gains to move up about 1.2 per cent as gold prices also started to back off following gains earlier in the week. The December bullion contract in New York lost $5.90 to US$1,412.90 an ounce. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) improved by 43 cents to C$20.69.

The base metals sector was the biggest decliner, down 1.17 per cent while December copper gave back five cents to US$3.26 a pound. HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) dropped 13 cents to C$7.

Oil prices declined after running up about four per cent in the previous two sessions on supply disruption concerns. The October contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.30 to US$108.80. The energy sector was off 0.42 per cent and Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) shed 42 cents to C$44.38.