TMXmoneyTMXmoney - invest with insight

TSX flat, traders eye Ukraine crisis, C$ rises, central bank leaves rate at 1%

Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press

A tote board TSX numbers in Toronto, on Dec.31, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
A tote board TSX numbers in Toronto, on Dec.31, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was little changed Wednesday as investors continued to monitor the standoff between Russia and Ukraine and digested disappointing U.S. private sector employment data.

The S&P/TSX composite index added 1.19 points to 14,291.05.

The Canadian currency was ahead 0.45 of a cent to 90.54 cents US after the Bank of Canada announced it was leaving its key rate unchanged at one per cent.

U.S. indexes were mixed as payroll firm ADP reported the private sector created 139,000 jobs in February, short of the 160,000 that had been expected. Meanwhile, economists have been looking for Friday's government report to show that overall, about 150,000 net jobs were created in the public and private sectors last month.

The Dow Jones industrials lost 42.64 points to 16,353.24, the Nasdaq was 4.53 points higher at 4,356.5 and the S&P 500 index dipped 0.2 of a point to 1,873.71.

Meanwhile, the latest U.S. economic survey by the Federal Reserve told investors what they likely already knew: severe winter weather held back economic growth in much of the United States from January through early February. Even so, conditions improved in most U.S. regions, helped by slight gains in areas such as employment and commercial real estate.

It's been a volatile week after Russian troops invaded Ukraine's Crimean peninsula over the weekend. Russia has key military installations there and many people are Russian-speaking.

But markets calmed down Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s border to return to their bases. He also said he hopes that Russia, which does not recognize the new Ukrainian leadership, won’t need to use force in eastern Ukraine.

Analysts continued to caution that there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the issue and that could impact markets further.

"What you saw yesterday is some hope (and) whether that hope is justified or not remains to be seen," said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer of fundamental Canadian equities at BMO Global Asset Management.

"It’s still not obvious how this will be played out in terms of finding a diplomatic face-saving solution for both sides."

Meanwhile, the European Union is proposing to provide Ukraine an 11-billion-euro aid package in loans and grants over the coming years.

The gold sector led gainers, up 0.76 per cent while April bullion edged up $2.40 to US$1,340.30 an ounce.

Laurentian Bank of Canada (TSX:LB) posted adjusted earnings of $39.3 million or $1.29 per share compared with $39.1 million or $1.30 per share last year and its shares slipped 23 cents to $46.27.

Other financials rose and the sector was up 0.4 per cent.

The base metals sector was ahead 0.14 per cent with May copper one cent lower at $3.21 a pound.

The energy sector led decliners, down 0.53 per cent as April crude in New York declined $2.02 to US$101.31 a barrel.

Media company Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) had $20.6 million or 26 cents a share of quarterly net income, little changed from a year earlier. Revenue was $366.5 million, down seven per cent from a year earlier, although the media division's revenue was up from the third quarter and its shares jumped 46 cents or 9.13 per cent to $5.50.