TORONTO - The Toronto market closed slightly higher Monday as strong early advances sparked by positive Chinese trade data evaporated amid another bout of falling oil prices and a fresh slide in gold stocks.
The S&P/TSX composite index had been up as much as 77 points but closed ahead 18.97 points at 14,709.8 as base metals and energy stocks also declined.
The Canadian dollar erased early gains to move down 0.32 of a cent to 87.92 cents US as the U.S. currency strengthened.
New York markets were slightly higher with the Dow industrials and S&P 500 building on the record highs established at the end of last week. New York's Dow industrials rose 39.81 points to 17,613.74, the S&P 500 added 6.34 points to 2,038.26 and the Nasdaq climbed 19.09 points to 4,651.62.
Data released overnight Sunday night showed that China's export growth slowed to 11.6 per cent in October from a year earlier, beating analysts' expectations of a 10 per cent rise.
Imports rose 4.6 per cent from a year earlier, slightly below forecasts calling for a five per cent gain.
The trade surplus of the world's second-biggest economy also beat expectations as it widened in October to US$45.4 billion from $30.9 billion in September, higher than forecasts calling for a $42.3-billion surplus.
Analysts said the positive reaction to the data indicated that markets were finally getting comfortable with Chinese growth not returning to the double-digit run-ups that were a feature of the country's economy for many years.
"We’re starting to become more realistic in that we now don’t overreact if the data comes in at or marginally below," said Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager at First Avenue Advisory in Ottawa, a Raymond James company.
The gold sector continued to be a major weight on the TSX, down almost six per cent with December bullion losing $10 to US$1,159.80 an ounce. The sector has fallen over 17 per cent in the last month as the U.S. Federal Reserve concluded its massive bond-buying program, or quantitative easing, while inflationary pressures in most countries remain tame.
Lower bullion prices are impacting gold stocks as it is getting increasingly expensive to get the precious ore out of the ground.
"Gold goes in cycles and we’ve had a 12-year cycle where gold has done well," Pashootan said.
"And that ended a couple of years back and we could easily have a 10- to 12-year cycle where gold does nothing."
Energy stocks also turned negative as oil prices declined in the face of a stronger U.S. currency.
The December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange shed $1.25 to US$77.40 a barrel and the TSX energy sector moved down 1.33 per cent.
The base metals group moved down 1.3 per cent while December copper edged two cents lower to US$3.02 a pound.
Gains were more plentiful outside the resource sectors.
The TSX found support from the consumer staples sector with Loblaw Cos. (TSX:L) up $1.37 to $58.55 ahead of earnings from the grocer later in the week.
Techs also lent support with BlackBerry (TSX:BB) climbing 69 cents or 5.78 per cent to $12.63 after CEO John Chen told the Financial Post that the smartphone maker is "on the cusp of profitability."
Financials and telecoms also provided lift for the TSX.