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At midday: Markets rise despite growing tensions in Ukraine

Ukrainian security force officers are deployed at a checkpoint.


The Toronto stock market was higher late morning Thursday amid positive earnings news and rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index was up 42.54 points to 14,575.93.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.04 of a cent to 90.68 cents (U.S.).

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New York's Dow industrials was up 11.76 points to 16,513.41 as traders took in positive earnings reports from General Motors and Caterpillar.

The Nasdaq gained 20.18 points to 4,147.15 as Facebook and Apple blew past expectations while the S&P 500 index added 3.9 points to 1,879.29.

In Canada, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. posted quarterly net income of $340-million (U.S.) or 40 cents a share, compared to 63 cents per share, or $556-million, in the same period last year. The company's guidance was for between 30 and 35 cents per share and its shares gained 32 cents to $38.67.

General Motors says first-quarter profit fell 86 per cent to $125-million or six cents a share as a series of recalls dragged down its earnings. Excluding one-time items, GM made 29 cents per share, far above analyst estimates of three cents per share and GM shares were up 19 cents to $34.58.

Canadian auto parts companies ran up in the wake of the GM report as Magna International gained $2.64 to $111.42 (Canadian).

Caterpillar's first-quarter earnings climbed five per cent to $922-million (U.S.), or $1.44 per share. Earnings totalled $1.61 per share, excluding restructuring costs. Total revenue was nearly flat at $13.24-billion. Analysts forecast earnings of $1.21 per share on $13.09-billion in revenue. Caterpillar shares are up $2.72 to $106.10.

"What it shows is domestically, (U.S.) economic growth was about two per cent last year, this year picking up somewhat and I think you're seeing this reflected at an early stage with some of the companies like Caterpillar that will be natural beneficiaries of this," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.

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"It also reflects the fact that even though you have slower growth in China, it is slower growth, not a terribly hard landing."

Shares in Apple Inc. jumped $41.11 or 7.83 per cent to $565.86 after the company announced Wednesday that it was increasing its dividend by eight per cent to $3.29 per share and that it will buy back an additional $30-billion of its stock. Quarterly earnings rose seven per cent to $10.2-billion, or $11.62 per share, while revenue climbed by five per cent to $45.6-billion. The company also will execute a seven-for-one stock split in early June.

Trading was cautious after Russia's defence minister announced new military exercises in Russia's south and west in reaction to mounting unrest in eastern Ukraine and NATO exercises in Poland. That development came just hours after Ukrainian troops killed at least two pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, leading Russian president Vladimir Putin to threaten Kiev with unspecified consequences.

Escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine pushed June crude in New York up 49 cents to $101.93 a barrel. The energy sector was flat.

Gold also headed higher as June bullion shed early losses to move up $5 to $1,299.60 an ounce but the sector fell 1.1 per cent.

May copper ran up five cents to $3.11 a pound and the base metals sector edged up 0.25 per cent.

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