TSX climbs as sentiment improves; Potash slips

John Tilak
Toronto Stock Exchange logo is seen in Toronto
A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto November 9, 2007.REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index advanced on Thursday as sentiment rebounded after the release of positive economic data from the United States, helping overcome a weak quarterly report from Potash Corp that pulled the company's shares lower.

Potash shares slipped 1.9 percent after the world's biggest fertilizer company posted a sharply lower quarterly profit and gave 2014 forecasts that were below Wall Street expectations.

Investors took stock of fresh U.S. economic data a day after the Fed said it would trim its bond purchases by another $10 billion despite recent turmoil in emerging markets.

Data showed that the U.S. economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the final three months of last year. The figures were in line with market expectations but stronger than had been anticipated earlier in the quarter.

"Today's GDP numbers validate the Fed's thinking that the United States is on a strong growth trajectory, and that's giving confidence to investors," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.

"The fact that the focus is shifting to earnings and economics can only be a positive for the markets," he added.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 92.06 points, or 0.67 percent, at 13,735.28.

"I am positive on the TSX," said Picardo, who sees the benchmark index recording double-digit growth in 2014.

Nine of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher on Thursday.

Insurers gained, lifting the broader financial sector, on hopes of benefiting from a possible rise in interest rates as a result of the Fed's move. Manulife Financial Corp climbed 1.8 percent to C$20.87, and Sun Life Financial Inc rose 1.6 percent at C$36.95.

But the materials sector, which includes mining stocks, gave back 1.2 percent. Potash was down at C$34.89.

Gold-mining shares took a hit as the price of bullion dropped. Goldcorp Inc lost 2.6 percent to C$26.93, and Barrick Gold Corp slipped 1.7 percent to C$21.45.

In corporate news, Canadian National Railway Co reported higher quarterly results and raised its quarterly dividend by 16 percent. The stock was up 2.2 percent, at C$59.34.

(Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)