Equities Retain Gains Midday

American Express Powers Dow

Stocks in Canada’s largest centre spread their wings by midday Thursday as Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd achieved lift on an earnings beat and as energy and many financial shares also gained.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 69.94 points, to move into noon hour at 15,622.82

The Canadian dollar slipped 0.05 cents at 74.13 cents U.S.

CP was the most influential gainer on the index, adding 3.6% to $209.32 after it reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit as it earned more from shipments of commodities such as grain and coal, and expressed optimism that demand was improving.

Its rival, Canadian National Railway, rose 1.4% to $100.11.

The energy group climbed, as oil prices steadied after steep losses in the prior session. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd rose 1% to $44.14.
Among financials, Royal Bank of Canada strengthened 0.5% t to $95.62, and Toronto-Dominion Bank added 0.5% to $66.15.

But shares in Home Capital Group Inc slumped 12% to $19.64 after staff at the Ontario Securities Commission said they would pursue claims that the alternative lender and three current or former executives had breached disclosure rules.

Celestica Inc declined 3.4% to $18.64 after the electronics manufacturer reporting quarterly earnings.

On the economic calendar, Statistics Canada reported Thursday that Canadians drawing regular employment insurance benefits numbered 554,200 in February, or 11,700, or 2.1%, fewer than the month before.

The agency says the number is similar to the level of June 2016 — just before the administrative changes that took effect last July.

Elsewhere, data showed early Thursday that lending activity to small Canadian businesses dipped in February, though borrowing by medium-sized firms rose for the fourth month in a row on strength in the construction sector and oil-related provinces.

ON BAYSTREET

The TSX Venture Exchange recovered 2.9 points to 821.77.

All but two of the 12 TSX subgroups were higher in the first hour of trade, as industrials sailed 1.3%, consumer discretionaries improved 0.7%, and materials were 0.4% to the good.

The pair of laggards consisted of utilities, down 0.2%, and telecoms, eking lower 0.01%.

ON WALLSTREET

U.S. stocks rose on Thursday as more companies released quarterly results, including American Express.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 119.78 points to 20,524.27, after the blue-chip index dropped 200 points in the past two days.

The Dow component and credit-card giant reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, lifted in part by higher spending numbers from card members. American Express contributed about 25 points to the Dow.

The S&P 500 improved 12.15 points to 2,350.32, with financials rising about 1% to lead advancers.

The NASDAQ Composite added 35.81 points to 5,898.85.

Verizon, another Dow member, missed the mark on both earnings and revenue. The company attributed a 5.1% drop in sales to decreased overage revenue, lower postpaid customers in the quarter and continued promotional activity.

Railway company CSX posted better-than-expected results and said it expects profit to jump 25% this year.

In economic news, initial jobless claims rose to 244,000, topping expectations, while the Philadelphia Fed business index fell to 22 in April from 32.8 in March. Leading indicators rose more than expected in March.

Investors also looked ahead to the first round of the French presidential election, which is scheduled for Sunday. Uncertainty around the election has grown over the past month after far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon's surprising surge in the polls.

According to French pollster Ifop, Melenchon was just five percentage points behind the front-runner, centrist Emmanuel Macron as of Wednesday.

Prices for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note were lower, lifting yields to 2.24% from Wednesday’s 2.21%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices found their way higher eight cents at $50.52 U.S. a barrel

Gold prices dropped 20 cents at $1,283.20 U.S. an ounce.