Canadian stock market ends higher

Toronto, Dec 25 (IANS) Canada’s main stock market in Toronto closed higher as traders headed for a holiday break.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s benchmark Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index added 24.89 points, or 0.19 percent, to 13,309.80 points on Thursday, as gains in banks and consumer companies offset declines by oil producers in a holiday-shortened trading session, Xinhua reported.

TSX’s energy group fell 0.7 percent. Heavyweight oil and gas producer Suncor Energy Inc lost 0.8 percent to 36.89 Canadian dollars ($26.67) and Crescent Point Energy Corp fell 1.9 percent to 16.87 Canadian dollars.

The most influential gainers included major banks Royal Bank of Canada, which rose 0.9 percent to 75.64 Canadian dollars, and Bank of Nova Scotia, which advanced 0.8 percent to 57.95 Canadian dollars. The overall financials group climbed 0.5 percent.

Pop and bottled water maker Cott Corp., the fourth best-performing stock in the TSX Composite Index this year, added 11 cents to 15.20 Canadian dollars a share.

Gold miners gained, as the price of bullion edged higher on the back of a weaker US dollar. Goldcorp Inc gained 3.1 percent to 16.89 Canadian dollars a share and Barrick Gold Corp rose 2 percent to 10.85 Canadian dollars a share.

Dominion Diamond Corp. leaped 39 cents, or 2.9 percent, to 14. 03 Canadian dollars per share, after two directors resigned for personal reasons, the company said.

The diamond mining company jumped 17 percent this week after coming under pressure for change from a group of investors led by Toronto-based hedge fund K2 & Associates Investment Management.

Thursday’s market saw an advance for a fifth consecutive day, which put TSX up more than 2 percent since Monday, and capped the second-straight week where the index gained ground, something that hasn’t happened since April.

Trading was soft heading into the Christmas break, as the world’ s stock, currency and bond markets are all largely closed Friday and through the weekend for Christmas.

“Falling volatility and trade volume mark the days prior to the Christmas holidays,” said Bernard Aw of IG, who noted this time of year traders often wind down their positions before the end of the year.

However, the TSX’s performance was stronger than American markets, with the Dow and S&P 500 both closing in the negative.

The Toronto market was buoyed by oil prices, which continued their march higher after coming within pennies of their recessionary low last week.

Tokyo stocks open mixed

 Tokyo stocks opened mixed on Friday morning as a dearth of fresh market incentives was compounded by a lack of cues as many market players are away for the end of year holidays.

As of 9.15 a.m. (local time), the 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 39.95 points, or 0.21 percent, from Thursday to 18,829.64, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 0.35 point, or 0.02 percent, at 1,523.27, Xinhua reported.

Early gainers comprised agriculture and fisheries, insurance and nonferrous metals-related stocks.

Chinese yuan strengthens

The central parity rate of the Chinese currency renminbi, or the yuan, strengthened by 42 basis points to 6.4713 against the US dollar on Friday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System.

In China’s spot foreign exchange market, the yuan is allowed to rise or fall by 2 percent from the central parity rate each trading day, Xinhua reported.

The central parity rate of the yuan against the US dollar is based on a weighted average of prices offered by market makers before the opening of the interbank market each business day.

US dollar declines

The US dollar edged down against most major currencies on investors’ profit-taking.

In late New York trading on Thursday, the euro gained to $1.0966 from $1.0908 of the previous session, and the British pound increased to $1.4914 from $1.4872, Xinhua reported.

The Australian dollar went up to $0.7270 from $0.7241.

The dollar bought 120.32 Japanese yen, lower than 120.85 yen of the previous session.

The dollar moved down to 0.9863 Swiss francs from 0.9906 Swiss francs, and it moved down to 1.3830 Canadian dollars from 1.3862 Canadian dollars.

Analysts said the greenback slipped as traders took profits on bullish positions, which were underpinned by the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rate.

The greenback was under further pressure as the country’s job data came out below expectation.

On the economic front, in the week ending December 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 267,000, a decreased of 5,000 from the previous week’s revised level and slightly below the marker expectations, according to the US Labor Department on Thursday.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, was down 0.44 percent at 97.924 in late trading.

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