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At the open: TSX flat amid stimulus hopes

European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi.


The Toronto stock market was little changed Monday amid hopes that central bankers will ride to the rescue of a weak global economic recovery with fresh stimulus measures.

The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 10.42 points to 12,071.81 while the TSX Venture Exchange was off 1.42 points at 1,250.45.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.11 of a cent to 100.96 cents (U.S.).

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U.S. markets were mainly lower with the Dow Jones industrials down 25.82 points at 13,132.15.

The Nasdaq composite index added 2.11 points to 3,071.9, benefiting from a 2.5 per cent rise in Apple's share value.

On Friday, a federal jury in California found that some of Samsung's products illegally copied features and designs from Apple's iPhone and iPad and ordered the South Korean firm to pay more than $1-billion in damages. Samsung Electronics shares fell 7.5 per cent in Korean trading.

The S&P 500 index slipped 0.4 of a point to 1,410.73.

Markets ended last week positive after the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke had written a Republican lawmaker saying there was room for the central bank to do more to help the recovery.

There were also hopes that the Chinese government is ready to boost the world's second-biggest economy after Premier Wen Jiabao called for efforts to stabilize weakening exports.

The report from the official Xinhua news agency gave no indication of possible measures but Beijing previously has promised tax cuts and loans by state banks to help struggling exporters.

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Export growth in July fell to just one per cent, well below forecasts, from the previous month's 11.3 per cent growth due to weak demand in debt-crippled Europe, China's biggest export market, and the United States, which is struggling with a sluggish recovery.

Central bankers will be in focus later in the week as the U.S. Federal Reserve holds its annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Bernanke delivers a keynote speech Friday while European Central Bank president Mario Draghi speaks on Saturday.

Draghi said Aug. 2 that the ECB was prepared to do whatever was necessary to keep the euro currency union intact.

Meanwhile, there were signs that the weakening euro zone economy in starting to affect Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

German business optimism, as calculated by the Ifo business survey, fell more than expected in August.

The index released Monday fell to 102.3 points in August from a revised 103.2 in July. Market analysts had expected a reading of 102.6.

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Troubles elsewhere are starting to make themselves felt. Italy and Spain, the No. 3 and No. 4 euro zone economies, are in recessions as they try to reduce budget deficits and struggle to refinance their debt in bond markets.

Meanwhile, Germany's economy minister rejected calls for Greece to get more time to implement economic reforms, saying Athens needs to respect the bailout deal reached with its international creditors.

Commodities turned lower.

The base metals sector was down 0.63 per cent as September copper shed an early advance to move down one cent to $3.48 (U.S.) a pound. Sector heavyweight Teck Resources fell 23 cents to $28.75 (Canadian).

The gold sector slipped 0.28 per cent as December gold dipped $3.10 to $1,669.80 (U.S.) an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. dipped 17 cents to $39.90 (Canadian).

The energy sector was little changed with the October crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down $1.26 to $94.89 (U.S.) a barrel. Oil prices had been higher earlier Monday amid worries that tropical storm Isaac could affect oil and refining operations in the Gulf of Mexico. An explosion at a refinery in Venezuela had also pushed prices higher.

Traders had been concerned that the storm might be a repeat of hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Gustav in 2008, damaging Gulf refineries and pipelines and disrupting oil tanker traffic.

Canadian Natural Resources declined 21 cents to $30.85 (Canadian).

Telecoms led advancers with Rogers Communications ahead 19 cents to $40.27 after it said it is buying sports broadcaster Score Media Inc. in a transaction valued at $167-million, or $1.62 per share.

Shares of Score Media jumped nearly 47 per cent Friday following reports that the specialty TV sports broadcaster was in discussions to be purchased by Rogers. Score Media, which owns the Score Television Network, rose 49 cents to $1.54 on the Toronto Stock Exchange before its stock was halted pending news just before noon Friday. Its stock was up a further 20 cents to $1.74 Monday morning.

In other acquisition activity, Canadian uranium giant Cameco has purchased one of Australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits. Cameco is paying BHP Billiton $430-million (U.S.) for the Yeelirrie uranium project. Cameco shares were down 29 cents to $22.17 (Canadian).

Rental car company Hertz is buying its rival, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc., for approximately $2.3-billion, giving it more ways to attract business and leisure travellers and an expanded international presence. Hertz Global Holdings jumped 10.42 per cent to $14.53 (U.S.).

On the earnings front, Tiffany & Co.'s shares gained six per cent as the luxury retailer's net income rose two per cent to $91.8-million (U.S.) in the second quarter as revenue improved, but the performance missed expectations and the company cut its full-year guidance.

European bourses advanced with Frankfurt's DAX ahead 0.82 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 gaining 0.45 per cent. The London exchange was closed for a holiday.

In Asia, markets were unsettled after Apple's court victory in a high-stakes patent dispute case sent shares of Samsung Electronics into a tailspin. South Korea's benchmark Kospi fell 0.2 per cent.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.4 per cent, Japan's Nikkei 224 index rose 0.2 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.1 per cent.

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