A major deal between two Canadian gold companies kept the Toronto stock market in positive territory on Wednesday.
The S&P/TSX composite index lifted 30.17 points to 14,410.72 near midday, driven by advances in the gold sector.
The Canadian dollar slipped 0.01 of a cent at 90.64 cents US.
Mining heavyweight Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI) reached an agreement to take a 50 per cent stake in the mining and exploration assets of Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK).
The offer implies Osisko is worth about $3.4 billion and its shares jumped 8.7 per cent to $7.48, the heaviest traded stock on the TSX. Yamana shares gained 13 cents to $9.84 on the TSX.
A higher price for bullion also supported widespread strength among other TSX-listed gold stocks.
On Wall Street, markets briefly turned negative as investors weighed if new data on U.S. jobs figures could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates earlier than anticipated.
The Dow Jones Industrials recovered from the early weakness, rising 25 points to 16,558 while the Nasdaq gained nine points to 4,277. The S&P 500 index lifted four points to 1,890.
A survey from payroll processor ADP said that U.S. companies hired at a faster clip in March. Private employers added 191,000 jobs in March, another positive sign for the jobs market ahead of the U.S. non-farm payrolls report and Canadian labour force survey due on Friday.
"(The ADP report) has ... shifted speculation back toward a more hawkish Fed that could start to raise interest rates sooner rather than later after tapering ends later this year," said Colin Cieszynski, senior markets analyst at CMC Markets, in a note to investors.
Positive sentiment about the U.S. economy had been growing this week after an improvement in the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for March and a slight uptick in U.S. construction data on Tuesday.
Investors shouldn't get too excited about the improved monthly figures, because the U.S. economy will likely face more volatility this year, said Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager and vice-president at First Avenue Advisory, a Raymond James company,
"The market tends to overreact to a single data point, and today I believe is another example of that," Pashootan said in an interview.
"To me, it's premature to (revise the outlook) on where monetary policy is going, just based on this one report."
In commodities, crude continued to trade below US$100 per barrel. Oil for May delivery traded Wednesday morning at US$99.04, down 70 cents.
The June gold contract gained $11.70 to $1,291.70 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Copper prices moved back to more normal levels after a magnitude-8.2 earthquake in Chile — a major producer of the metal — sent prices soaring to their highest levels since early March. The May copper contract was up one cent at US$3.04 a pound.
Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) shares declined nearly three per cent after the fertilizer producer said it expects only a slim profit in the first quarter, just above the break-even point.
Analysts have been expecting Agrium's profit for the first quarter of 2014 to be well above break-even, although down from a year ago. The Calgary-based company said several factors have worked against it, including a slow start to the spring planting season. Its shares dropped $1.76 to $105.78.
BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB) says it won't renew a licensing agreement with U.S. telecom giant T-Mobile when it expires on April 25, which means T-Mobile won't sell BlackBerry products after inventories run out. BlackBerry shares were up 13 cents to $9.07.
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX:MDA) says it has suspended work on ground infrastructure for its communication satellite program in Ukraine due to the country's political instability. MDA expects the work to be delayed from four to six months. Costs associated with the stoppage are yet to be determined.
MDA shares were down 18 cents to $88.61.
European bourses have also gained ground overnight. Germany's DAX was up 0.3 per cent, Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.2 per cent higher, and France's CAC 40 gained 0.3 per cent.
In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 1.04 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.34 per cent and China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.56 per cent.