Toronto stock market to open little changed amid continuing China growth worries

By , on March 13, 2014

TORONTO—The Toronto stock market looked set to start the session little changed as disappointing industrial production data added to China growth concerns that have pressured markets all week.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.33 of a cent to 90.29 cents US.

New York futures advanced as the Dow Jones industrial futures gained 22 points to 16,361, the Nasdaq futures were ahead eight points to 3,714.8 and the S&P 500 futures climbed 3.25 points to 1,871.

Chinese government figures showed industrial production rose by a lower than anticipated 8.6 per cent in the first two months of this year. Retail sales growth also fell short of estimates.

China’s premier Li Keqiang said Thursday that his country will keep this year’s economic expansion strong enough to create new jobs but will emphasize market-opening reform and cleaning up smog-choked cities over hitting its official growth target of 7.5 per cent.

The data followed a report issued last weekend showing the world’s second-biggest economy experienced an 18 per cent drop in exports in February.

Copper prices have slid more than eight per cent over the past four sessions while the TSX base metals segment has by far been the worst performer this week, down 8.5 per cent.

The May contract for the metal was down a cent to US$2.95 a pound Thursday morning.

But it’s not just demand concerns that have weighted on copper.

Chinese authorities gave the go-ahead late last week for the country’s first credit default, involving a manufacturer of solar panels. And another solar energy company is also in danger of default.

This is worrisome because copper is used as much for financing transactions as for its industrial applications.

Traders worry that a wave of defaults could result in a massive liquidation of copper on the markets, which would further depress prices.

Demand questions have also hit oil prices hard this week with the April contract in New York down almost five per cent this week. But on Thursday, the crude rose 32 cents to US$98.31 a barrel.

Bullion prices also shifted lower after surging $24 Wednesday amid concerns centred around the Ukraine-Russian conflict.

The April contract slipped $1.60 to US$1,368.90 an ounce.

On the earnings front, media giant Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) had $62.5 million of net income in the fourth quarter, up from $6.2 million a year earlier. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations came in at $68 million, or 55 cents per share while revenues remained relatively flat, up 0.5 per cent to $1.12 billion. Analysts had called for 53 cents of adjusted earnings on $1.15 billion in revenues.

Empire Company Ltd. (TSX: EMP.A), parent of supermarket chain Sobeys Inc., reported that quarterly net earnings slumped to $400,000 or nil per diluted share compared with $74.1 million or $1.09 per share in the year-earlier period. Earnings were partly impacted by the weaker Canadian dollar and the acquisition of grocer Safeway’s Canadian assets.

Ex-items, earnings were 84 cents per share, below analysts’ estimate of $1.23 per share.

European markets were mixed with London’s FTSE 100 index down 0.21 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX rose 0.16 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 dipped 0.12 per cent.