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At the open: TSX climbs; traders look to consumer data

A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 in Richmond, February 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Positive earnings news helped push the Toronto stock market modestly higher Tuesday.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 22.72 points to 15,467.94.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.15 of a cent to 92.44 cents (U.S.).

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U.S. indexes were mixed amid a disappointing read on housing prices and ahead of the release of consumer confidence date with the Dow Jones industrials up 25.21 points to 17,007.8, the Nasdaq gained 7.45 points to 4,452.36 and the S&P 500 index added 0.52 of a point to 1,979.43.

WestJet beat forecasts for profit and revenue as it posted a net profit of $51.8-million (Canadian), or 40 cents per share, up from $44.7-million, or 34 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 10.3 per cent to $930.7-million and its shares ran ahead $1.45 or 5.3 per cent to $28.87.

George Weston Ltd. reported a quarterly net loss of $208-million, or $1.71 per share, compared with a net profit of $97-million, or 68 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2013. Total sales were $10.59-billion compared with $7.52-billion year-over-year and its shares advanced $1.07 to $86.90. The loss included the results of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp, which was acquired by Loblaws Companies Ltd. earlier this year for $12.8-billion, for the full quarter and related accounting adjustments. George Weston said its adjusted earnings per share were $1.26 compared with $1.08 year-over-year.

And Talisman Energy posted a surprise loss of $237-million, or 23 cents per share, compared with a profit $97-million, or nine cents, per share in the same quarter of 2013 due, in part, to an after-tax impairment charge and a non-cash mark-to-market loss on commodity derivatives. Cash flow was $567-million, or 55 cents per share in the quarter, which met expectations. Its shares added one cent to $11.73.

It is a very heavy week for Canadian corporate earnings news with the accent on the resource sector with several big names from the energy and gold mining sectors reporting, including heavyweights Barrick Gold, Suncor Energy and Cenovus Energy.

A major decliner in New York was Herbalife Ltd. The seller of supplements and weight loss products on Monday reported profit that decreased by 17 per cent in its second quarter, and missed analysts' expectations. Its shares plunged 11.2 per cent to $59.91 (U.S.).

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In other corporate developments, BlackBerry will acquire anti-eavesdropping security firm SecuSmart for an undisclosed amount. The German company provides high-level voice and data encryption for governments, businesses and telecommunications service providers. Its shares were ahead seven cents to $10.82 (Canadian).

On the economic front, U.S. home prices rose in May from a year earlier at the weakest pace in 15 months, as home sales remain modest. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased 9.3 per cent in May from 12 months earlier, down from 10.8 per cent in the previous month.

Later in the morning, the Conference Board is expected to report that its Consumer Confidence Index inched up to 85.5 in July from 85.2 in the prior month. June's reading was the highest level since January 2008.

The base metals sector edged up 0.1 per cent while September copper eased one cent to $3.23 (U.S.) a pound.

The TSX energy sector slipped 0.13 per cent with the September crude contract in New York down 88 cents to $100.79 a barrel.

The gold sector declined 0.1 per cent as August bullion gained $4.20 to $1,307.50 an ounce.

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