(RTTNews.com) - Canadian stocks ended higher for a third straight session Thursday, tracking rising global equity markets with some better than expected initial jobless benefit claims data from the U.S. The main index was driven mainly by the heavyweight financial, as well as the mining and energy sector. Canada's energy stocks moved up as crude oil and natural gas futures jumped following the extreme cold U.S. weather.
In economic news from the U.S., initial jobless claims for U.S. unemployment benefits pulled back more than expected in the week ended February 1, after reporting a bigger-than-expected increase in the previous week. Meanwhile, labor productivity in the U.S. increased more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2013, with output showing another significant increase, a Labor Department report showed Thursday.
Elsewhere, the European Central Bank on Thursday left its main lending rate unchanged at 0.25%, in line with expectations. The ECB indicated continuation of its low interest rates, while terming the economic recovery as uneven and fragile. As well, the Bank of England left its bond-buying program unchanged while holding on to its key lending rate at a record low of 0.5%.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed Thursday at 13,713.40, up 153.71 points or 1.31 percent. The index scaled an intraday high of 13,732.74 and a low of 13,560.33.
The heavyweight Financial Index gathered 1.35 percent with Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) up 1.30 percent and the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) up 1.72 percent. Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) added 1.35 percent, and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) gained 1.61 percent. Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC.TO) gained 1.05 percent.
The Global Gold Index shed 0.52 percent, although gold futures for April delivery, the most actively traded contract, gaining $0.30 to close at $1,257.20 an ounce Thursday on the Nymex.
Among gold stocks, Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) slipped 0.49 percent, while Yamana Gold Inc. (YRI.TO) dropped 2.10 percent. IAMGOLD Corp. (IMG) dropped 2.04 percent, while Detour Gold Corp. (DGC.TO) added 3.39 percent.
The Capped Materials Index gained 0.73 percent, with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT.TO) up 2.82 percent.
Crude oil ended higher after some upbeat initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits data and ahead of the crucial jobs data for January due tomorrow.
The Energy Index gained 1.64 percent, with U.S. crude oil futures for March delivery, the most actively traded contract, adding $0.46 or 0.5 percent to close at $97.84 a barrel Thursday on the Nymex.
Among energy stocks, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ.TO) moved up 0.74 percent, while Encana Corp. (ECA.TO) added 0.58 percent. However, Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM.TO) slipped 0.51 percent, while Suncor Energy Inc. (SU.TO) added 1.65 percent.
The Information Technology Index added 1.02 percent, with smartphone maker BlackBerry Limited (BB.TO) gaining 2.51 percent.
The Diversified Metals & Mining Index moved up 2.27 percent, with Lundin Mining Corp. (LUN.TO) up 4.03 percent, and First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) up 2.50 percent. Teck Resources Limited (TCK.B.TO) gained 2.01 percent.
The Capped Industrials Index moved up 1.28 percent, with Bombardier Inc. (BBD.B.TO) gaining 1.69 percent and Air Canada (AC.B.TO) up 3.74 percent.
In corporate news, BCE Inc. (BCE.TO) gained 2.05 percent after its fourth-quarter adjusted earnings beat estimates, and the company forecast 2014 adjusted earnings will be up more than three percent from last year. BCE also raised its quarterly dividend.
Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO) added 1.06 percent, after reaching a deal to avert a strike by conductors and yard workers.
Electric utility Fortis Inc. (FTS.TO) added 2.58 percent after reporting a fourth-quarter profit of C$100 million or C$0.47 per share, up from C$87 million or C$0.45 per share in the prior-year quarter.
In economic news, initial jobless claims for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped to 331,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 351,000. Economists expected jobless claims to drop to 337,000 from the 348,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Meanwhile, labor productivity in the U.S. rose 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter following a revised 3.6 percent increase in the third quarter. Economists expected a rise of about 2.6 percent. The increase in productivity, a measure of output per hour, came as output surged up by another 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter after jumping by 5.4 percent in the third quarter.
U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in December, due partly to a notable pullback in the value of exports, a report from the Commerce Department showed Thursday. U.S. trade deficit widened to $38.7 billion in December from a revised $34.6 billion in November. Economists expected a deficit of $36.0 billion.
Exports dropped 1.8 percent to $191.3 billion in December after climbing 0.8 percent to a record high of $194.8 billion in November. Imports edged up 0.3 percent to $230.0 billion in December after sliding 1.3 percent to $229.4 billion in the previous month.
From the eurozone, European Central Bank Governing Council kept its main refinancing rate at a record low 0.25 percent for a third consecutive month. The marginal lending facility rate was maintained at 0.75 percent and the deposit facility rate at zero, where it has remained since July 2012.
ECB President Mario Draghi said the outlook for euro area inflation remains subdued due to a weaker economy and the bank is ready to consider all available instruments to tackle any money market volatility.
Draghi added "We continue to expect the key ECB interest rates to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time."
Elsewhere in Europe, the Bank of England decided to leave its loose monetary policy unchanged on Thursday, in line with the forward guidance announced last year. The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee retained the interest rate at a record low 0.50 percent and the quantitative easing at GBP 375 billion. This was in line with economists' expectations.
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