TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed modestly higher Wednesday as traders looked to the outcome of an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers to discuss the Greek government's demand for debt relief.
The S&P/TSX composite index gained 38.98 points to 15,151.5.
Aversion to risk, lower commodity prices and growing speculation that the Bank of Canada will again cut interest rates next month pushed the Canadian dollar down 0.42 of a cent to 79.11 cents US.
U.S. indexes were mixed as the Dow Jones industrials lost 6.62 points to 17,862.14, the Nasdaq gained 13.54 points to 4,801.18 and the S&P 500 index dipped 0.06 of a point to 2,068.53.
The meeting of eurozone finance ministers was the group's first opportunity to hear directly from the new leftist Greek government, which was elected on an anti-austerity platform. Greece wants to renegotiate the terms of its international bailout ahead of the expiration of the current agreement in late February.
There has been speculation that Greece could be granted extra time to hold new negotiations but German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has poured cold water on that scenario. He told reporters at the Group of 20 meeting in Istanbul that such speculation was the stuff of fantasy.
Unlike 2012, the last time the Greek debt crisis rattled markets, there seems to be less worry about the country exiting the eurozone if it proves impossible to come to an agreement on debt.
"I think the word potentially here is complacency," said David Wolf, portfolio manager in the Global Asset Allocation group at Fidelity Investments.
"For ourselves, we had been underweight — in some cases quite a bit underweight — European equities through much of last year. The way we have approached it in terms of investments is that, on the chance that this complacency is misplaced, we would rather not have excess exposure to any potential risk."
TSX advancers were led by the telecom sector, up 1.3 per cent with Telus (TSX:T) ahead 70 cents at $43.54 a day before the Vancouver-based telco releases earnings.
The energy sector advanced 0.35 per cent even as oil fell $1.18 to US$48.84 a barrel as traders speculate on whether oil prices have bottomed. Oil prices have hit six-year lows, down 50 per cent from the highs of last summer amid a huge supply/demand imbalance on global markets.
However, there is little evidence that global oil production levels have shown any decline.
The latest data from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that supplies increased by another 4.9 million barrels last week, higher than the four million that analysts expected.
March copper was off a penny at US$2.54 a pound and the base metals sector edged 0.3 per cent lower.
The gold sector lost 1.3 per cent as bullion shed early gains to move down $12.60 to US$1,219.60 an ounce.
The industrials sector also lagged as Air Canada (TSX:AC) posted a quarterly net loss of $100 million or 35 cents a share. Adjusted earnings came in at 23 cents a share, a penny short of estimates. Revenue improved 7.2 per cent to $3.1 billion but its shares fell $1.29 or 9.75 per cent to $11.96.