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Miners push TSX up; U.S. stocks rise after inventories fall but sales gain

TORONTO - Rising telecom and mining stocks helped push the Toronto stock market higher Wednesday, with the S&P/TSX composite index gaining 42.35 points to 11,961.06.

TORONTO - Rising telecom and mining stocks helped push the Toronto stock market higher Wednesday, with the S&P/TSX composite index gaining 42.35 points to 11,961.06.

The telecom sector closed up 1.17 per cent with Telus Corp. (TSX:T) ahead 66 cents at $36.39 and Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) up 66 cents at $35.06.

Media company Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) reported a $73.8-million profit in the fourth quarter, a reversal of last year's $343.6-million loss in the same quarter as it wrote down the value of goodwill and other intangible assets. Revenue grew $25.6 million to just under $1.03 billion. Quebecor shares rose $1.45 to $33.67.

The base metals sector was up 1.32 per cent even as May copper shed four cents at US$3.37 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) gained 55 cents to C$41.59, while Sherritt International (TSX:S) climbed 23 cents to C$8.90.

The energy sector gained 0.93 per cent as the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed up 60 cents at US$82.09 a barrel. Prices had earlier gone as high as US$83.03 after the U.S. Department of Energy reported that crude supplies rose less than expected last week while gasoline inventories dropped more than analysts had forecast.

Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) was up 79 cents at C$75.62.

The TSX Global gold index led decliners, as the April bullion contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange turned negative, losing $14.20 to US$1,108.10 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) declined 87 cents to C$39.67 while Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded $1.04 to C$40.41.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.05 of a cent to 97.48 cents US. The loonie has recently hovered around its highest level since mid-January.

The currency trading Wednesday came amid a report from CIBC World Markets that said expectations of higher interest rates and investor demand for Canada will help drive the loonie past parity with the U.S. greenback by this summer.

On other markets, the TSX Venture Exchange was 1.96 points lower at 1,556.8.

On Wall Street, New York markets were slightly higher amid economic data showing that U.S. businesses trimmed their inventories again in January.

The U.S. Commerce Department said wholesale inventories fell 0.2 per cent in January following a one per cent drop in December. Sales rose 1.3 per cent, however. If sales continue to pick up, that would likely force businesses to restock inventories.

New York's Dow Jones industrials ticked 2.95 points higher to 10,567.33.

The Nasdaq composite index gained 18.27 points to 2,358.95, while the S&P 500 index was up 5.16 points at 1,145.61.

In Canada, the TSX has been lower all week following a sharp, three per cent gain last week when Canada's main market finally surpassing the level where it started the year as investors responded to higher commodity prices and a slew of positive bank earnings.

Analysts said the back-and-forth action could be a factor in markets for some time.

"It's been this way for six months and it's probably going to continue this way for a number of months to come, and that is that we are - in a traders' market," said Gareth Watson, director of the Canadian Equities Portfolio Advisory Group at ScotiaMcLeod.

Such a market means that a buy-and-hold strategy doesn't work too well and investors must be quick to capitalize on fluctuations which provide short-term opportunities to make money.

"The approach right now for people to make money on a consistent basis is to be more active in their portfolios as opposed to sitting back and hopefully letting the market take their portfolio values higher," Watson said.

In other Canadian corporate news, shares in agribusiness Viterra Inc. ran ahead 23 cents to $9.88 after it announced Wednesday it has a deal to acquire Dakota Growers Pasta Co. Inc. in an all-cash transaction that values Dakota at US$240 million. The deal for Dakota was announced on the same day that Viterra (TSX:VT) said it earned $10.7 million in the first quarter, reversing a net loss of $33 million a year ago.

A major creditor of Canwest Global Communications (TSXV:CSG) said it will stand behind Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs as it fights the sale of Canwest's television assets.

Catalyst Capital Group Inc. said it "strongly supports" Goldman Sachs' move to kill the sale of the broadcast TV channels to cable operator Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B) in a deal approved last month by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Shaw shares inched up four cents to $20.39.

Air Canada (TSX:AC.A) was one of the few high-flyers on the TSX on Wednesday. Its shares jumped 18 cents or 11.25 per cent to $1.78 after UBS raised its outlook for legacy carriers. U.S. airlines also benefited from the upgrade, with Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL) ahead $1.08 at US$22.27 in New York.

 
 
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