BUSINESS

Mining stocks, corporate news pushes Toronto stock market slightly lower

02/19/2015 08:14 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market registered a modest decline Thursday amid lower mining stocks and a mixed bag of corporate news.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 32.42 points to 15,180.33. Falling oil helped push the Canadian dollar down 0.52 of a U.S. cent to 80.01 cents.

A major decliner was SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) on news that the RCMP has laid fraud and corruption charges against the engineering firm and two of its subsidiaries. The charges follow an investigation into business dealings in Libya and allegations that they paid millions of dollars to public officials.

SNC says it will plead not guilty but its shares fell $3.08 or seven per cent to $40.63 amid worries that a conviction could result in problems in bidding for work.

Another Quebec company was also under the microscope — transport giant Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) is issuing $750 million in new equity by issuing 339.4 million subscription receipts exchangable for its Class B shares at $2.21 each. Its shares were halted about an hour before the close when they were down seven cents or 2.8 per cent at $2.45 on heavy volume of 8.1 million shares.

The move comes a week after it said the cost of developing its new C-Series airliner has soared to US$5.4 billion from US$4.23 billion a year ago.

U.S. indexes were mainly lower with the Dow Jones industrials down 44.08 points at 17,985.77 and the S&P 500 index off 2.23 points at 2,097.45. The Nasdaq gained 18.34 points to 4,924.7.

Markets also focused on the Greek debt drama as the country's new government formally requested a six-month extension of bailout loans. But Germany appeared to turn thumbs down on the request with a spokesman describing it as a request for "bridge financing without fulfilling the demands of the (bailout) program."

The TSX gold sector was the biggest decliner, down two per cent as April gold advanced $7.40 to US$1,208.20 an ounce and investors looked to mixed earnings.

Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX), citing massive impairment charges on mine projects in Africa and Chile, posted a quarterly net loss of US$2.85 billion or US$2.45 per share. Adjusted net earnings were US$174 million or 15 U.S. cents per share, beating estimates of 13.6 cents a share and its shares ran ahead 82 cents to C$16.03.

Goldcorp. Inc. (TSX:G) has written down the value of its Cerro Negro mine in Argentina by US$2.3 billion as the miner posted a quarterly net loss of US$2.4-billion. Goldcorp's adjusted earnings were US$55 million or seven cents per share, missing forecasts of 12 cents and its shares faded $2.29 to $26.65.

March crude declined 98 cents to US$51.16 a barrel and the TSX energy sector lost 0.4 per cent as the U.S. Energy Department reported a buildup of 7.7 million barrels in U.S. inventories.

Rising inventories are bad news since a huge supply/demand imbalance has been responsible for oil prices plunging more than 50 per cent from the highs of mid-2014.

"The problem that caused oil prices to go down has not changed," said Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory in Ottawa, a Raymond James company.

"We have no direction on whether there will be a cut in supply and, as a result, there is a meaningful oversupply at multi-year highs."

March copper was up a penny at US$2.62 a pound while the base metals sector shed 1.25 per cent.

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