TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed lower Thursday as traders stepped back after a string of gains that brought the TSX back into positive territory for the year.
The S&P/TSX composite index lost 53.54 points to 12,481.37 while the Canadian dollar was up 0.36 of a cent to 98.94 cents after earlier running up to a two-month high of 99.15 cents US.
U.S. indexes added to three days of gains as the number of Americans seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell 42,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, which beat expectations of 360,000.
The Dow Jones industrials were up 62.9 points to 14,865.14 while the Nasdaq composite index climbed 2.9 points to 3,300.16 after International Data Corp. reported global PC shipments fell 14 per cent in the first quarter, the biggest decline ever.
The S&P 500 index edged up 5.64 points to 1,593.37.
The gains pushed the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 further into record territory. The Dow has jumped 13.4 per cent year to date while the S&P 500 has charged ahead almost 11.75 per cent as investors react to a resurgent housing sector and the conviction that the Federal Reserve won't be ending its stimulus program of buying bonds any time soon.
"We’re still net/net standing positively toward the U.S. market," said Sid Mokhtari, a market technician at CIBC World Markets.
"It’s still outperforming relative to other countries, so money continues to flow into the U.S."
The TSX is only about 50 points in the positive column for the year as of the close Thursday and indications are that it will continue to badly underperform New York, in large part because it is so resource based.
"There hasn't been much of a vote of confidence for global economic recovery to be strong enough to be able to bring a better bid back into the market for commodities," Mokhtari said.
"At best, people are still talking about sub-par growth, muddle through scenarios for the global economic growth situation and that doesn’t bode well for countries that are tied to the commodities complex."
The TSX tech sector was the leading decliner, down two per cent with BlackBerry (TSX:BB) down $1.11 or 7.43 per cent to $13.82.
Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha said in a note to clients that his analysis of the company's recent annual filing showed that gross margins reported for its fourth quarter were driven in part by lower levels of amortization and not entirely by the new BlackBerry 10 handsets that were launched during the quarter.
The base metals sector lost 1.47 per cent even as May copper shed early declines to rise two cents to US$3.43 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) declined 38 cents to C$28.70.
The gold sector was off about 1.5 per cent while June bullion was up $6.10 to US$1,564.90 an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) faded 26 cents to C$6.26.
But Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) gained 19 cents to C$25. Barrick shares tumbled almost nine per cent Wednesday after a Chilean court suspended work on its Pascua-Lama mine after indigenous communities complained that the project is threatening their water supply and polluting glaciers.
Gold slid 1.7 per cent on Wednesday, partly on speculation that Cyprus will sell 400 million euros of the precious metal as part of its financial bailout.
The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange declined $1.13 to US$93.51 a barrel. Prices backed off after the International Energy Agency lowered its expectations for global demand for crude in 2013 by 45,000 barrels to 90.6 million barrels a day.
The energy sector dropped 0.68 per cent while Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) shed 58 cents to C$30.94.
The financial sector gave back 0.39 per cent as Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) moved down 23 cents to $14.42.
Royal Bank (TSX:RY) shares were off nine cents to $61.29 as chief executive Gordon Nixon made a public apology to the workers who are being affected by the bank's outsourcing arrangement with a foreign company.
On the earnings front, shares in Hudson's Bay Company (TSX:HBC) gained 25 cents to $15 after it posted fourth-quarter earnings that were down compared with a year ago as its Lord & Taylor operations in the United States felt the impact of hurricane Sandy. The retailers net earnings from continuing operations were $93.6 million or 81 cents per share, down $5.6 million from a year ago.
Astral Media Inc. (TSX:ACM.A) had $41.2 million or 73 cents a share in net earnings in the latest quarter, up eight per cent from the year-earlier period. Revenue also increased slightly, rising to $237.1 million from $233.5 million.
The Montreal-based radio, television and outdoor advertising company is seeking regulatory approval to be acquired by BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE). Its shares edged a penny lower to $48.87.
Corus Entertainment Inc. (TSX:CJR.B) shares fell $1.11 to $24.60 after it said Thursday that net income attributable to shareholders in the latest quarter fell to $5.9 million or seven cents per diluted share. That was down from $31.6 million on 38 cents from a year earlier. Corus cited a $25-million pre-tax debt refinancing charge as well as "soft" business results that saw a double-digit slide in quarterly revenue to $183.7 million.
The TSX Venture Exchange added 0.8 of a point to 1,048.54.