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Toronto stock market advances amid string of positive earnings reports

Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Strong earnings reports helped push the Toronto stock market higher Thursday afternoon.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 70.45 points at 12,391.74, with investors giving a positive reception to earnings from clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear (TSX:GIL) and Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) among others.

The Canadian dollar was off 0.01 of a cent to 99.19 cents US.

Earnings reports and positive employment news helped push New York markets higher after they also lost ground on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 117.49 points to 14,818.44, the Nasdaq was ahead 43.42 points at 3,342.55 and the S&P 500 index was up 14.8 points at 1,597.5.

There was some positive employment news a day before the U.S. government releases its employment report for April.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to seasonally adjusted 324,000, the lowest since January 2008.

"Everyone is looking to the April jobs numbers," said Tyler Vernon, chief investment officer at Biltmore Capital in New York.

Economists forecast that the economy added 160,000 jobs last month. That’s much better than the 88,000 added in March.

"People are more confident that it was an anomaly last month and are looking for some bigger numbers."

General Motors' shares ran up $1.23 to US$31.41 as the automaker's net income fell 14 per cent to $865 million or 58 cents a share in the first quarter, weighed down by losses in Europe and weaker earnings in North America. Ex-items, GM earned 67 cents per share, compared with analysts’ forecast of 54 cents. Revenue fell 2.3 per cent to $36.9 billion, still slightly ahead of Wall Street’s expectation of $36.6 billion.

After the markets closed Wednesday, Facebook said that its quarterly net income was $219 million, or nine cents per share, up from $205 million, also nine cents per share, in the same period a year ago when the company was still private. Its shares rose $1.45 to $28.88.

The gain on the TSX made up about half the loss registered Wednesday after data showing lower levels of expansion in manufacturing sectors set off a new round of concerns about the economies of the U.S. and particularly China, punishing resource stocks particularly.

"(China) is still growing at a pace that Europe and North America could only wish for," said Norman Raschkowan, North American strategist for Mackenzie Investments.

"But it is decelerating and that’s important for especially the resource sector. And that’s why Canada has been affected by that more than others."

The financial sector led TSX advancers, up one per cent as Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) posted net income of $540 million or 28 cents a share, down sharply from $1.22 billion a year ago as insurance sales fell 23 per cent to $619 million. Core earnings for the quarter at Canada's largest life insurer were up 18 per cent to $619 million, or 32 Canadian cents per share, which matched expectations. Its shares rose 67 cents to $15.43.

The consumer discretionary sector was ahead 0.7 per cent. Clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear (TSX:GIL) reported net earnings of US$72.3 million or 59 cents per share on a diluted basis, exceeding its earlier guidance of 54 to 57 cents per share. Net sales rose more than eight per cent to US$503 million. It also upgraded its outlook for the year and its shares rose 69 cents to $41.74.

In the consumer staples sector, Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) stock gained $1.80 to $46.55 as it said it is going to include the structural integrity of buildings in audits of suppliers in the wake of the collapse of a building in Bangladesh that housed one of the company’s suppliers. More than 400 people were killed when the building collapsed last week. One of the factories in the building produced a small number of items for Loblaw’s Joe Fresh clothing line.

Industrials also advanced with Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) ahead $3.19 to $126.35.

Commodity prices were higher after the weak economic data Wednesday pushed prices sharply lower.

The gold sector was 0.6 per cent higher while June bullion recovered most of Wednesday's loss, up $21.40 to US$1,467.60 an ounce. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) ran ahead 41 cents to C$19.76.

Goldcorp (TSX:G) earned $309 million compared to $479 million in the first quarter of 2012. Adjusted net earnings totalled $253 million, or 31 cents per share, compared with $404 million or 50 cents per share a year ago. Revenues came in at $1 billion and Goldcorp shares faded 16 cents to $28.91.

The energy component was ahead 0.44 per cent as the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 50 cents to US$91.53 a barrel.

The metals and mining sector turned positive, up 0.5 per cent while July copper gained two cents to US$3.10 after having tumbled 11 cents Wednesday.

HudBay Minerals Inc. (TSX:HBM) shed 15 cents to C$7.89 after it said it had a profit of $1.9 million, or a penny per diluted share for the three-month period ended March 31, down from $3.4 million or three cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Elsewhere, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. (TSX:SNC) shares slipped $2.15 to $41.30 after posting a first-quarter profit of $53.6 million, down from $66 million a year ago. Revenue totalled $1.9 billion, up from $1.79 billion a year ago.