TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Wednesday as gains in consumer and financial stocks competed with a decline in gold stocks - despite bullion hitting another record close - and an analyst downgrade of Research In Motion Ltd.
The S&P/TSX composite index closed at a fresh 2009 high, up 22.69 points at 11,652.69.
The Canadian dollar closed down 0.31 of a cent to 94.83 cents US.
The consumer staples sector was up 1.23 per cent. Shares in grocer Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU.A) rose 80 cents to $36.90 as the company reported quarterly net income of $84.4 million, up from year-ago profit of $72.5 million. Metro also increased its dividend by 10 per cent to 14 cents per share.
"It's their signal that things are stronger and they have an optimistic outlook," said Kate Warne, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
"The retail environment in Canada is better than what people were thinking it would be, given the recession and all the headlines we see about consumers not spending."
The results followed a well-received earnings report Tuesday from Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) and its shares rose another 79 cents to $32.69 after gaining almost five per cent on Tuesday.
The financials sector advanced 0.8 per cent with CIBC (TSX:CM) up $1.31 to $68.24.
The base metals sector climbed 1.24 per cent with December copper up a fifth of a cent to US$3.11 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) gained 90 cents to $36.79.
The gold sector dropped 1.41 per cent as the December bullion contract in New York climbed $1.80 to a record close of US$1,141.20 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) faded $1.38 to $46.10.
The tech sector declined 1.37 per cent after BMO Capital Markets said Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) faces increased competition as consumers opt for less expensive phones. RIM gave back $1.28 to $63.25 as analyst Tim Long cut his rating on RIM to market perform from outperform.
However, some analysts thought the downgrade was unwarranted.
"People forget that the market for smartphones is growing very quickly," observed Warne, noting her firm has a "buy" on the stock.
"And they get very concerned that good news for Apple must be bad news for RIM (or vice-versa) forgetting that really, at this point, the stock will move higher because lots of people are buying BlackBerrys even if they're also buying competitors' phones."
The energy sector was off 0.48 per cent as the December crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 44 cents to US$79.58 cents US as the U.S. dollar moved lower and government data showed a surprise drop in U.S. crude inventories.
Investors also took in data showing a slight rise in inflation.
Statistics Canada said that inflation rose 0.1 per cent in October from a year earlier, the first annual increase in five months. The consumer price index was negative over that time because of record gasoline prices in mid-2008.
In the U.S., the Labour Department reported that consumer prices rose 0.3 per cent last month, just above the 0.2 per cent predicted by economists.
The TSX Venture Exchange moved 8.02 points higher to 1,394.06.
New York indexes were lower as investors were disappointed with the latest reading on the health of the American housing sector.
The Dow Jones industrial average moved down 11.11 points to 10,426.31.
The Nasdaq composite index lost 10.64 points to 2,193.14 while the S&P 500 index was off 0.52 of a point to 1,109.8 as the U.S. Commerce Department said construction of new homes and apartments fell 10.6 per cent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000, against the pace of 600,000 that economists had expected.
In other corporate news, Telus Communications Inc. (TSX:T) launched a legal action against Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B), claiming its advertisements boasting of Canada's fastest and most reliable network are false and misleading. It says a network run by Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus has offered faster and more reliable service than Rogers since a Nov. 5 upgrade. Shares in the Vancouver-based telecom were ahead 30 cents to $33.60 while Rogers shares declined 26 cents to $32.88.
A weak lumber market combined with a deterioration in the newsprint sector caused Tembec (TSX:TMB) to post a quarterly net loss of $17 million or 17 cents per share compared with $4-million loss a year ago. Its shares rose five cents to $1.03.
Seacliff Construction Corp. (TSX:SDC) shares surged $1.38 or 14.56 per cent to $10.86 after it said Tuesday it has signed a deal to buy the Broda Construction Group for $50 million in cash, shares and assumed liabilities.
Silicon metal producer Timminco Ltd. (TSX:TIM) announced Wednesday it will receive $10.6 million in financing from AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group to support its turnaround plan. Its shares rose 11 cents to $1.69.
Shares in Moly Mines Ltd. (TSX: MOL) surged 20 cents or 23.53 per cent to $1.05. The jump came after it said it has received confirmation that the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board has no objections to the proposed US$200-million controlling interest investment in the firm by the Sichuan Hanlong Group through its Australian subsidiary, Hanlong Mining Investment Pty Ltd.