CANADA STOCKS-TSX touches 2-1/2-year high on China data, BlackBerry

Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:49pm EST
 
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* TSX rises 102.08 points, or 0.74 percent, to 13,990.29
    * All of the 10 main index sectors advance
    * Index up about 2.7 percent this year
    * BlackBerry jumps 8.2 percent

    By John Tilak and Euan Rocha
    TORONTO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index
advanced on Monday to reach its highest in 2-1/2 years as shares
of smartphone maker BlackBerry jumped and bullish economic data
from China helped drive gains in every major sector.
    Investors were encouraged by data that showed China's
economy grew 7.7 percent in 2013. The gain was flat from 2012
but above market expectations for 7.6 percent expansion.
 
    BlackBerry shot up 8.2 percent as the short position in the
stock waned and after a Pentagon announcement last week
indicating the company's devices were a core part of its mobile
strategy. 
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's benchmark S&P/TSX index, which
has risen in nine of the last 10 sessions, is up about 2.7
percent this year.
    "There's some optimism out there. The confidence is coming
back slowly, which is a good sign," said Adrian Mastracci,
portfolio manager at KCM Wealth Management.
    "A lot of investors are probably treading water and taking
positive news from China," he added.
    The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 102.08
points, or 0.74 percent, at 13,990.29, its highest level since
mid 2011.
    After lagging the S&P 500 in 2013, the TSX has so far
this year outperformed U.S. stock markets, which were closed on
Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. That weighed on
trading volume. 
    About 217 million shares changed hands, compared with an
average daily volume of about 316 million shares in December,
according to Thomson Reuters data and figures from market
operator TMX Group.
    "From now on, you'll see the TSX performing with, or a
little bit better than, the U.S. market," said David Cockfield,
a portfolio manager at Northland Wealth Management.
    "We're getting back to a calmer, less jittery market," he
added. "People are going to be more interested in long-term
performance and what the fundamentals for stocks look like."
    All of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
    Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, gained
0.9 percent. Royal Bank of Canada, the country's biggest
lender, added 1.4 percent to C$72.86. Bank of Nova Scotia
 rose 1.6 percent to C$64.88.
    The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, advanced
1.6 percent. Barrick Gold Corp jumped 4.6 percent to
C$21.56, and diversified miner Teck Resources Ltd 
climbed 1.5 percent to C$29.10.
    In corporate news, Australian uranium producer Paladin
Energy Ltd  agreed to sell a stake in its
Namibia mine. The company's shares were up 9.1 percent in
Toronto at 60 Canadian cents. 
    BlackBerry Ltd, which surged as much as 18 percent
in early trading, closed at C$10.80.    
    The Pentagon indicated last week that BlackBerry phones
account for roughly 98 percent of devices being supported as
part of a program aimed at bringing greater mobile access to
Department of Defense employees. 
    The news helped calm fears that BlackBerry is losing ground
in its core security-conscious user base.   
    Further, data from Markit indicated that the level of
short-interest in the stock has dropped, with the percentage of
shares out on loan having fallen to below 10 percent for the
first time in nine months. Citron Research, run by
California-based investor Andrew Luck, who is known for
short-selling stocks, last week praised the company's recent
strategic direction, leading to a bump in the stock on Friday.