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TSX shoots up 144 points amid solid earnings reports from Suncor, CGI Group

TORONTO - Corporate earnings optimism helped send the Toronto stock market sharply higher amid some strong reports from oil producer Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) and business technology company CGI Group Inc. (TSX:GIB.A).

The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 143.83 points to 12,456.5, adding to a string of recent gains, as investors also bid up companies handing results later in the week.

Traders also took in news that the Canadian economy performed better than expected earlier in the year.

The loonie was up 0.41 of a cent to 99.26 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that gross domestic product grew by 0.3 per cent in February compared with January, topping expectations of 0.2 per cent. The reading translates to annualized growth of 1.7 per cent.

Shares of Suncor rose $1.77 or 5.97 per cent to C$31.41 after it posted operating earnings of $1.37 billion, or 90 cents per share Monday night, compared with $1.32 billion, or 84 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. That handily beat the average analyst estimate of 75 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Canada's largest energy company also increased its quarterly dividend to 20 cents per share from 13 cents and announced a $2-billion share buyback.

"You saw the dividend increase substantially, significant share buyback and a continuation of their drive on the part of new management to focus less on growth and more on return to shareholders," said Robert Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.

"And a precursor to this was cancellation of the (Voyageur oilsands) upgrader project which was going to be fairly high cost and questionable returns. To me, this is a positive story that will be unfolding over a protracted period."

Shares of business technology company CGI Group Inc. (TSX:GIB.A) also pushed higher after the company reported better than expected results. The company earned $114.2 million or 36 cents per diluted share in its latest quarter, compared with $105.7 million or 40 cents per share a year ago when the company had fewer shares. Revenue soared to $2.53 billion from $1.065 billion, on the acquisition last year of Logica.

"The most telling factor is a big increase in their order backlog, so that portends very good things forward for them," added Gorman.

CGI shares were up $4.87, or 18 per cent, to $31.90.

U.S. indexes rose slightly amid data showing a deterioration in a widely watched gauge of manufacturing in the Midwest. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index moved into contraction territory in April, coming in at 49, its lowest reading since September 2009, and down from 52.4 in March.

The Dow Jones industrials were ahead 21.05 points to 14,839.8.

The Nasdaq composite index climbed 21.77 points to 3,328.79 and the S&P 500 index was 3.96 points higher at 1,597.57.

On the TSX, the information technology sector was the leading advancer, up 6.32 per cent, thanks in part to CGI’s earnings report but there was also optimism over BlackBerry's new smartphone.

BlackBerry (TSX:BB) was up 72 cents or 4.56 per cent to $16.50, a day before the company’s new Q10 smartphone is released in the Greater Toronto area, before it is available to the rest of Canada later in the week. The keyboard version of the smartphone is expected to be popular with business users, especially with bankers and traders on Bay Street.

The consumer staples sector also provided the TSX with some lift, up 1.54 per cent as Loblaw Cos. (TSX:L) gained $1.12 to $42.75 a day before the grocer delivers earnings.

June crude fell $1.04 to US$93.46 a barrel and the energy sector was up 1.5 per cent, thanks in large part to Suncor's performance. Elsewhere, Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) rose 14 cents to C$12.08.

The financials sector improved by about 0.9 per cent as Manulife (TSX:MFC) climbed 15 cents to $14.89 ahead of its earnings report on Thursday.

The gold sector rose about 0.82 per cent while June bullion on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended the session up $4.70 to US$1,472.10 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) gained 64 cents to C$29.82.

The base metals sector ran up 1.5 per cent as July copper on the Nymex slipped four cents to US$3.19 a pound. First Quantum Minerals, (TSX:FM) which posts earnings Wednesday, pushed ahead 30 cents to C$17.589.

In other earnings news, Thomson Reuters (TSX:TRI) reported a seven per cent decline in operating profit in the first quarter, citing severance costs and an increase in depreciation and amortization expenses.

The global news and information company said underlying operating profit was $462 million, with adjusted earnings of 38 cents per share. Its shares were down 35 cents to $33.75.

Traders also balanced positive American consumer and housing data.

The U.S. S&P Case-Shiller 20-city house price index rose by 0.3 per cent in February, which marked a 13th consecutive increase. The index was up 9.3 per cent year over year, the highest since the housing crash began in mid-2006.

Other data showed the Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to 68.1 in April from a reading of 61.9 in March.

Gorman added that the most important aspect of the consumer confidence data was the reading for expectations in the next six months: it jumped from 63.7 in March to 73.3 in April.

"They see three things," he said. "A housing price recovery, which was reinforced by the Case-Shiller report. There’s a certain wealth effect there. Second, gasoline prices have eased. And the stock market is going up. Looking ahead they feel quite a bit better."

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