Stocks rise amid increased Chinese imports early release of Fed minutes

The Toronto stock market was higher Wednesday amid further positive news from China, while the release of minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting did little to shake the conviction that the Fed is in no rush to end its current economic stimulus.The S&P/TSX composite index was down from early highs because of rising losses in gold stocks but late in the morning was still ahead 43.79 points to 12,527.84 while the Canadian dollar gained 0.19 of a cent to 98.59 cents US.U.S. indexes also rose as the minutes showed that some Federal Reserve officials favoured an end to the bond buying program known as quantitative easing as early as this summer.Several others thought that if labour conditions improved as expected, the Fed could slow purchases later in the year and stop them by year-end. However, that meeting took place well before a dismal employment report for March was released last Friday.The Fed released the minutes early after discovering that some copies had been sent by mistake to Capitol Hill staffers and trade groups on Tuesday.The Dow Jones industrial average rose 124.44 points to 14,797.9, the Nasdaq composite index climbed 49.34 points to 3,287.2 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 15.91 points at 1,584.52.Customs data showed that China posted an unexpected trade deficit of US$800 million in March as imports rose 14.1 per cent after having grown five per cent in the combined January-February period. The report suggested Chinese manufacturers and consumers might be buying more, raising hopes for stronger performance from the world’s second-biggest economy. Traders had expected China to post a $15.3-billion surplus for last month.“While the data has been volatile of late due to holiday distortions, it is clear that the underlying trend in imports is gaining momentum,” said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian FIC Strategy at RBC Dominion Securities.The TSX ran ahead 139.5 points Tuesday after other government data showed China’s consumer prices rose at a 2.1 per cent rate in March. That was down from the previous month’s 3.2 per cent and well below the official target of 3.5 per cent for the year.The showing gives China some leeway in being able to take further measures to stimulate growth, which came in at 7.9 per cent in the three months ended in December, up from the previous quarter’s 7.4 per cent.“I think China and the emerging markets in general will continue to grow at high single-digit rates,” said Paul Vaillancourt, managing director of Fiera Capital Canadian Wealth Management. “And with inflation numbers coming in confirming that there is no sort of hard landing in China, that is very positive. And I think we will continue to see some strong demand coming from the region. That obviously impacts raw materials like copper and other metals a bit more.”The financial sector led advancers, up 1.15 per cent with Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) up 79 cents to $58.16 and Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) ran ahead 28 cents to $14.54.The telecom sector was ahead 0.9 per cent.Three of Canada’s smaller mobile phone carriers have jointly announced they’re withdrawing from the industry’s main lobby group. Wind Mobile, Public Mobile and Mobilicity accuse the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association of consistently taking positions that favour Canada’s three older, bigger carriers — Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T).Commodity prices were mixed following initial strong gains in the wake of Tuesday’s Chinese inflation data.The June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange shed early declines to edge up three cents to US$94.23 a barrel as data showed crude supplies rose much less than expected last week in the U.S. Inventories grew by 300,000 barrels, against the 1.4 million barrels that economists had expected.The energy sector rose 0.8 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) climbed 34 cents to C$32.38.The base metals sector turned negative, off 0.24 per cent following a strong advance Tuesday as May copper dipped three cents to US$3.41 a pound. Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) slipped seven cents to C$2.64.The gold sector led declines, down 3.1 per cent as June bullion in New York fell $17.40 to US$1,569.30 an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) slipped 28 cents to C$6.56.Alacer Gold Corp. (TSX:ASR) fell 27 cents to $3.73 even as it announced that a special dividend from the sale of its 49 per cent interest in the Frog’s Lake mine in Australia will be paid at the end of the month. The payment of about 24 cents U.S. per share in cash is part of a plan to distribute about US$70 million from the sale, which closed recently.European bourses advanced as London’s FTSE 100 index gained 1.45 per cent while Frankfurt’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 climbed about two per cent.In other corporate news, Valeant Pharmaceuticals has settled a patent lawsuit between its Medicis subsidiary and generic giant Actavis Inc. The lawsuit related to Actavis’ version of two Medicis products — Ziana, a acne topical antibiotic, and Zyclara, a prescription drug for premalignant skin problems. Valeant (TSX:VRX) will receive a share of the proceeds from generic versions of products to be launched by the U.S. firm (NYSE:ACT). Valeant shares advanced 67 cents to $73.96.

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