TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed lower Monday amid falling commodity prices, while traders looked to a heavy week of earnings news from corporate Canada.
The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 53.08 points to 12,748.15, led by falling gold stocks as bullion prices closed at a five-week low, while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 9.5 points to 1,196.31.
The Canadian dollar continued to lose ground in the wake of disappointing employment and housing starts data at the end of last week. The loonie shed 0.16 of a cent to 99.57 cents US.
U.S. indexes backed off as the Dow Jones industrials declined 21.73 points to 13,971.24, the Nasdaq composite index was 1.87 points lower at 3,192 and the S&P 500 index was down 0.92 of a point at 1,517.01.
BlackBerry (TSX:BB) also weighed on the TSX, falling 75 cents or 4.54 per cent to $15.76 as Forbes reported that Home Depot has decided to ditch the approximately 10,000 BlackBerry smartphones used by its executives. The home improvement chain is reportedly supplying its corporate staff with Apple’s iPhone.
The TSX gold sector led decliners, down a shade over two per cent as April bullion faded $17.80 to US$1,649.10 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) shed 87 cents to C$35.36.
The energy sector fell 0.51 per cent as the March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange reversed early declines to move up $1.31 to US$97.03 a barrel. Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) lost 56 cents to C$42.49.
The base metals sector was down 0.77 per cent as March copper was four cents lower at US$3.72 a pound. Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) dipped 12 cents to C$3.21.
Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO) reported an 83 per cent drop in net earnings in its fourth quarter to $45 million, or 11 cents per diluted share, largely due to a $168-million writedown on its Kintyre project in Australia and lower profits from its uranium business. Adjusted earnings came in at 60 cents, beating forecasts of 41 cents but its shares fell 66 cents to $21.05.
The industrials sector was the leading advancer as Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) climbed $2.21 to $115.97.
Financials also lifted the TSX as Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) ran up 44 cents to $15.28.
The fourth-quarter earnings season is winding down in the U.S. but Canadian investors will be taking in a slew of earnings reports this week.
Pipeline company TransCanada (TSX:TRP) posts earnings Tuesday. Over the rest of the week, traders will take in reports from resource giants including Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM), Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE), gas giant EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) and Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX).
“I think what we will see in terms of energy companies, more specifically oil and gas, is going to be a function of continued persistent multi-year weak gas prices which will hold back those with gas production,” said Garey Aitken, chief investment officer at Bissett Investment Management.
“The earnings season has been pretty decent from our vantage point. I’m just hopeful that what’s going on at the corporate level will shine through and play centre stage.”
Outside of the resource sector, Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF), and telecoms Telus Corp. (TSX:T) and Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) will also hand in results.
In other corporate news, engineering firm Genivar confirmed that it engaged in “inappropriate conduct” several years ago in the financing of political parties in Quebec and the awarding of municipal contracts as outlined in recent allegations to the province’s corruption inquiry. The Montreal-based company said an unnamed person is on a leave of absence until an internal review is completed. Its shares Monday fell 50 cents to $23.10.
WestJet Airlines (TSX:WJA) is boosting its base in Western Canada by launching its Encore regional service in June to British Columbia’s energy region using the airline’s first Bombardier turboprops. The airline will begin with daily flights between Fort St. John, B.C. and Vancouver, and Fort St. John and Calgary. Additional routes will be added as it takes delivery of five more planes by the end of the year and WestJet shares drifted 15 cents lower to $21.24.
Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (TSX:BAM.A) says it will pay US$414 million to buy a portfolio of 19 apartment communities in three states in the U.S. Southeast. Most of the 4,892 units included in the deal are concentrated in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., but some are also in the neighbouring states of South Carolina and Virginia. Brookfield shares slipped eight cents to $38.74.
Onex Corp (TSX:OCX) and its affiliates have agreed to sell their 50 per cent interest in RSI Home Products for approximately US$323 million. The Onex Group invested $318 million in October 2008 to acquire RSI preferred equity. The Toronto-based group says it will have received US$471 million, including prior distributions, when the sale closes. Onex shares were down 17 cents at $44.23.
Alacer Gold Corp. (TSX:ASR) will pay a special dividend to distribute $70 million in cash from the sale of its 49 per cent interest in the Frog’s Lake mine in Australia. The sale is part of a strategic review conducted by the Toronto-listed company, which says it will now focus exploration activity on targets with the greatest potential to return “significant and immediate value.” Its shares ran ahead 14 cents to $4.54.