Toronto's main market edged lower Thursday, as traders took in mostly negative economic data in North America amid slumping commodities.
Investors waded through another batch of corporate earnings from many of Canada's biggest companies.
Overseas, European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi in his monthly news conference said that he remains wary about the region's economic outlook, but said a recent rise in the euro was a sign of improving confidence in currency.
Also, earlier this morning, both the ECB and the Bank of England left interest rates unchanged.
Back in Toronto, as of about 1 p.m. EDT, the S&P/TSX Composite was lower by 13.88 points, or 0.11%, to 12,747.71, while the more junior S&P/TSX Venture Composite fell 7.13 points, or 0.59% to 1,204.59.
Gold futures for April delivery were volatile on Thursday, lately down $3.20 to $1,675.70 an ounce.
Meanwhile, crude futures for March delivery ticked lower, lately down 69 cents to $95.93 a barrel.
Elsewhere, silver futures shed 18 cents to $31.69 an ounce, while the base metal copper contract lost 1 cents to $3.72 a pound.
Toronto's main sectors were mixed Thursday.
Declines in the sector were led by Teck Resources (TSE:TCK.B) – down 5.35% after it Thursday posted a drop in fourth-quarter profits and gave a downbeat production forecast for copper and zinc.
In other metals and mining news, Minera IRL (LON:MIRL) (TSE:IRL) revealed this afternoon it has raised nearly C$15.5mln to fund the early development costs at its Ollachea gold project in Peru. The firm has completed the previously announced offering, issuing around 21.7 mln shares at C$0.71 per share to raise C$15,460,250.
Financials were off, with the Royal Bank of Canada (TSE:RY) down 0.31% and Sun Life Financial (TSE:SLF) shedding 0.07%, while Manulife Financial (TSE:MFC) rose 0.56% after it Thursday said it swung to a profit in its fourth quarter on a tax gain and stronger sales of insurance and wealth products in its Asian division.
In Canadian corporate news, shares of BlackBerry (TSE:BBY) (NASDAQ:BBRY) rose nearly 3%, after the company reportedly said late Wednesday that its Z10 devices enjoyed record sales this week. The company also announced the additions of two telecom industry veterans to its board of directors — Richard Lynch, retired executive VP of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and Bert Nordberg, former CEO of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.
Air Canada (TSE:AC.B) shares improved slightly after it swung to a fourth quarter profit on strong revenue in its international network, while also benefitting from cost control initiatives. In the latest period, Canada's biggest airline said system passenger revenues rose 5.8% on a 4.2% growth in traffic and a 1.2% improvement in yield.
The BCE dividend will increase from $2.27 to $2.33 per share effective in the first quarter, payable on April 15 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 15. Its stock moved up slightly this afternoon.
On the economic docket, Statistics Canada reported this morning that its new housing price index edged up 0.2% in December, after a 0.1% increase the month before.
Stats Can also said that the value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities slid 11.2% to $5.7 billion in December, following a 14.5% decline in November. Both residential and non-residential sectors announced fewer builds during the last month of 2012.
U.S. stocks dropped on Thursday on disappointing economic data, mixed corporate earnings and as retailers handed in mixed same-store sales data for January, even as Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said he’s optimistic that the U.S. economy will improve.
The Dow was lately down 90.82 points to 13,895.70, the Nasdaq fell 17.73 points to 3,150.75, and the S&P 500 moved down 8.31 points to 1,503.81.
In economic news, U.S jobless claims slipped to 366,000 for the week, while U.S. productivity declined by 2% in the fourth quarter.
On the corporate front, Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn said he is opposing Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) proposal to take away “blank check” preferred stock, saying the company needs to consider more ways to return cash to shareholders.
Apple shares were lately up 1.32% Thursday.
Greenlight filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, urging the company's shareholders to reject the proposal that will be up for vote at its annual meeting on February 27. Einhorn also filed suit against Apple in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.
On the earnings front, shares of Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) fell as the company posted a fourth-quarter loss on the shutdown of its Nextel platform and the impact of Hurricane Sandy, but results still came in ahead of analyst estimates.
Late Wednesday, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ:GMCR) posted a moderate rise in profit, but forecast disappointing sales growth for the current quarter, with its shares off more than 3% Thursday.
Credit card giant Visa (NYSE:V) reported late Wednesday a higher first quarter profit of $1.93 per share, which included a one time gain of 11 cents per share. Analysts had expected a profit of $1.79 per share. Revenue of $2.85 billion against last year's $2.55 billion beat estimates for sales of $2.8 billion. The company forecast earnings per share growth in the high teens for the year.
News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) reported a jump its fiscal second quarter earnings on the back of gains from buying additional stakes in Fox Sports Australia and Fox Star Sports Asia, as well as from a stock buyback done by British Sky Broadcasting. Excluding these gains, as well as $65 million in expenses due to hacking allegations at its British papers, earnings grew to 44 cents from 39 cents a year earlier, topping analyst estimates by a penny.
Revenue rose 5% to $9.43 billion.
European markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The DAX gained 0.13%, while the CAC 40 led the FTSE 100 lower. They fell 1.15% and 1.06% respectively.