Toronto's main market posted modest gains Thursday as commodities gained traction on better-than-expected export data out of China that came out overnight.
China’s exports in December rose 14.1% and imports grew 6%, up from November’s 2.9% increase in exports, while imports were flat.
In Europe, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.75%.
Meanwhile, Spain's benchmark government bond yields fell below 5%, the lowest in 10 months.
Back in Toronto as of about 1:20 p.m. EDT, the S&P/TSX Composite was higher by 61.11 points, or 0.49%, to 12,583.35, while the more junior S&P/TSX Venture Composite rose 10.38 points, or 0.84% to 1,239.49.
Commodities were higher Thursday afternoon, with gold futures for February rising $21.30 to 1,676.80 an ounce on strong Chinese export data and a weaker U.S. dollar, while silver futures added 53 cents to $30.79 an ounce.
Elsewhere, crude oil for February rose on the China data and as a Bloomberg report said that Saudi Arabia cut crude production by nearly 5% in December. Crude futures were lately 84 cents higher at $93.94 a barrel.
Meanwhile the base metal copper contract added 2 cents to $3.69 a pound.
Toronto's main sectors were higher Thursday.
Advances in materials were seen in Colossus Minerals (TSE:CSI) (OTCQX:COLUF) – up 6.62% after it announced that it has intersected high grade gold at the Elefante area, located about 2 kilometres to the southeast of the Serra Pelada gold-platinum-palladium mine in Brazil.
Declines in the sector were seen in Silver Standard (TSE:SSRI) - down 7.56% - while Harry Winston Diamond Corp. (TSE:HWD) lost 1.47% and West Fraser Timber (TSE:WFT) shed 0.88%.
In metals and mining news, Mercator Minerals (TSE:ML) Thursday announced that it exceeded its fourth quarter production expectations and said it will spend $15 million in 2013. In its fourth quarter, the company said its Mineral Park mine in Arizona produced a record 23.8 million pounds of copper equivalent, exceeding its forecast of 22.8 million pounds.
Toronto-based Treasury Metals (TSE:TML) is now undertaking a 2013 exploration drilling program at its Goliath gold project, located 20 kilometres east of Dryden, Ontario. The main focus of the program is to further delineate the C Zone within the proposed open pit to bring inferred resources to indicated resources, and add ounces.
Capstone Mining Corp. (TSE:CS) Thursday said its fourth quarter and full-year copper production met its expectations, with “strong performance” at its Cozamin mine in Mexico offsetting a shortfall at its Minto mine in Canada.
Silver Bull Resources (TSE:SVB) (NYSE MKT:SVBL) Thursday said it will release an updated resource estimate and preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on its flagship Mexican Sierra Mojada silver-zinc project in 2013.
Energy was higher Thursday, with advances seen in TransGlobe Energy (TSE:TGL), oilfield services Mullen Group (TSE:MTL) and Whitecap Resources (TSE:WCP) - advancing 5.29%, 3.54% and 2.49%, respectively.
Declines in the sector were seen in Petrobank Energy and Resources (TSE:PNW) – down 13.22% - while Niko Resources (TSE:NKO) tumbled 7.33%, after it said drilling at the Ajek-1 well in Indonesia confirmed the presence of reservoir and hydrocarbon charge, the primary pre-drill concerns in the previously undrilled sub-basin.
In other energy news, Sprott Power Corp. (TSE:SPZ) shares rose today after it said its board has initiated a strategic review of options to enhance shareholder value, including a potential sale of the company. The Canadian company is focused on the development, ownership and operation of renewable energy projects.
In other Canadian corporate news, Montreal-based Astral Media (TSE:ACM.A) (TSE:ACM.B) Thursday posted first quarter per share earnings that came in ahead of analyst expectations, but revenues came up short despite increasing 1%.
The Jean Coutu Group (TSE:PJC) said Thursday that third-quarter per share earnings rose 13% on a “solid performance” in its generic drugs segment, meeting analyst expectations, though revenues fell short.
In economic news, Statistics Canada said its new housing price index rose 0.1% in November, following a 0.2% increase in October.
Meanwhile, building permits in November fell 17.9% from October - the lowest level since January 2012. This follows a 15.9% increase in October.
U.S. stocks, which had gained sharply earlier on Chinese export data, pared gains Thursday afternoon ahead of earnings reports from the nation’s larger corporations.
The Dow was lately up 39.94 points to 13,430.45, the Nasdaq was up 2.47 points to 3,108.29 and the S&P 500 climbed 5.82 points to 1,466.84.
On the economic front, jobless claims rose 4,000 to 371,000 in the week that ended January 5. Analysts were expecting claims to have dropped to 365,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised down to 367,000 from an initial read of 372,000.
Meanwhile, sales at the wholesale level surged in November, up 2.3% to dwarf the month's inventory build of 0.6%. Economists expected an increase of 0.3%.
Also on the economic front, Kansas City Fed President Esther George will speak at 1:10 p.m. EDT, and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will give his views at 2 p.m. EDT.
No S&P 500 companies were scheduled to report today, with Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) to report Friday, making it the first major financial institution to release its fourth quarter results.
But there were some other company earnings on the calendar Thursday, as supermarket chain Supervalu (NYSE:SVU) reported third quarter earnings. Adjusted for certain items, Supervalu reported net earnings of $5 million or three cents per diluted share, compared to $50 million or 24 cents per diluted share in the year-ago period.
Sales fell 5% to 7.9 billion compared to $8.3 billion last year. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per share profit of five cents, on $7.89 billion in sales.
But the grocery chain’s stock rose over 7%, after it said it will sell five of its retail grocery banners to AB Acquisition LLC for $3.3 billion.
In other corporate news, Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) said it now sees earnings for the year ending January 31 coming in near the low end of its prior expectations of $3.20 to $3.40 a share, following flat same store sales over the holiday period. Its shares dropped over 4%.
Zale Corp. (NYSE:ZLC) said Thursday its same-store sales for the months of November and December increased by 2.3%. At constant exchange rates, same-store sales increased 1.6%, down from a rise of 6.2% last year.
The operator of Zales Jewelers, Gordon's Jewelers and other jewelry stores stood by its previous outlook and expects to achieve positive net income for fiscal year 2013.
Nutritional supplement company Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) shares edged up as the company defended itself against allegations from hedge fund manager Bill Ackman that it is running a pyramid scheme. Wednesday, the company's shares rose after Third Point LLC disclosed an 8.2% stake in the nutritional supplement maker.
Nokia Corp. (NYSE:NOK) saw its shares surge 18% Thursday after the company said its mobile-phone business exceeded expectations, with its Windows 8 phone launch helping the smartphone maker, achieving underlying profitability in the fourth quarter.
Molycorp (NYSE:MCP) shares fell over 20% as the rare earths producer said that its 2013 revenue will fall short of expectations due to weak rare-earth prices and the cost of ramping up production at its Mountain Pass, California rare-earth manufacturing complex.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters currently expect 2013 revenue of $954 million.
American International Group (NYSE:AIG) shares edged down after reports emerged late Wednesday that it will not join a lawsuit against the U.S. government filed by its former CEO over the terms of AIG's bailout in 2008.
European markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The FTSE 100 gained 0.05%, while the CAC 40 led the DAX lower. They fell 0.39% and 0.16% respectively.