TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was higher Thursday amid mixed economic news from overseas and solid earnings reports.
The S&P/TSX composite index gained 91.76 points to 15,174.6.
The Canadian dollar was down 0.35 of a U.S. cent to 80.19 cents.
New York indexes were positive with traders set to digest the U.S. government’s employment report for February on Friday. Economists generally expected the economy to have created about 235,000 jobs last month.
The Dow Jones industrials rose 53.14 points to 18,150.04, the Nasdaq was ahead 23.67 points at 4,990.81 and the S&P 500 index climbed 5.05 points to 2,103.58.
China has announced a growth target for this year of about seven per cent, down from last year’s 7.5 per cent. Actual economic growth last year was 7.4 per cent, the lowest since 1990.
Other economic news was more positive. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi said the ECB has upgraded its growth forecast for the eurozone in 2015 to 1.5 per cent from 1.0 per cent.
The base mining group led advancers, up 1.2 per cent with May copper unchanged at US$2.66 a pound.
The consumer staples sector was up 1.1 per cent. Shares in George Weston Ltd. climbed $1.73 to $106.71 as the food company said net earnings attributable to shareholders fell to $161 million or $1.17 per diluted share from $177 million or $1.30.
Adjusted earnings were $212 million or $1.58 per share, up sharply from $135 million or 98 cents in the prior-year period, but still short of analyst expectations of $199 million or $1.61 per share. Revenue of $11.73 billion beat estimates of $11.38 billion.
The gold sector was up 0.75 per cent while April gold gained $1 to US$1,201.90 an ounce.
The energy sector was down 0.6 per cent as energy company Encana announced after the close Wednesday that it is tapping the markets with a share issue of $1.25 billion. Including options, proceeds could climb as high as $1.44 billion. The collapse in oil prices — down 50 per cent from the highs of last summer — has had a major impact on the cash flows of energy companies. Its shares were down 59 cents at $14.61.
On Thursday, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said it almost tripled its profit in the fourth quarter to just under $1.2 billion or $1.09 a diluted share. Adjusted net earnings were $756 million or 69 cents per share, up from $563 million or 52 cents. The energy company is raising its quarterly dividend by half a cent to 23 cents per share.
Meanwhile, the company also announced a further $150-million cut in capital spending plans for 2015 and said members of its management committee were taking a 10 per cent pay cut. In January, the company had announced a whopping $2.4-billion cut in capital spending to $6.2 billion. Its shares ran up $1.05 to $37.83.
April crude in New York declined 32 cents to US$51.21 a barrel.