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TSX chalks up modest gain amid positive earnings, disappointing U.S. retail data

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Tuesday amid positive earnings reports but a disappointing showing in U.S. retail sales.

The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 24.87 points to 14,679.81.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.11 of a cent at 91.66 cents US.

U.S. indexes were mainly higher as the U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales rose just 0.1 per cent last month, after surging 1.5 per cent in March following a harsh winter that had curtailed shopping. Auto sales increased 0.6 per cent in April and purchases at clothing stores were up 1.2 per cent. But most of those gains were offset by declines in spending at restaurants, online retailers and furniture and electronics stores.

The Dow Jones industrials climbed 19.97 points to 16,715.44, the Nasdaq fell 13.69 points to 4,130.17 and the S&P 500 index added 0.8 of a point to 1,897.45 after earlier crossing the 1,900-level for the first time.

In M&A developments, Quebec-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (TSX:VRX) said it plans to improve its offer for Botox-maker Allergan. The U.S. company on Monday rejected Valeant's US$47-billion hostile takeover bid, saying it undervalued Allergan. Valeant said in a letter to Allergan shareholders that it will outline the improved offer during a webcast/conference call May 28. Valeant shares were 58 cents lower at C$141.40 in Toronto.

And there are reports that AT&T is close to completing a takeover of the satellite-television provider DirecTV. The Wall Street Journal reported that a deal could be reached within two weeks, or sooner, and would value DirecTV at nearly US$50 billion.

Merger and acquisition activity is up sharply for this year and analysts cite it as a major reason why markets have done so well in 2014.

"I think it’s up 80 per cent; its best year so far (since the financial crisis)," said Sid Mokhtari, market technician at CIBC World Markets.

"That basically shows that the sentiment of CEOs is generally good and optimistic."

Mokhtari said optimism about China is also supporting markets.

"A Chinese official has come out and admitted to what they call a new normal now, assuming slower growth for a protracted period of time," he said.

"The market wasn’t sure where China was headed, now they’ve come out and said it and that has sparked some sort of an assumption that at least officials would take measures to boost growth."

On Tuesday, oil and gas producer Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) said quarterly cash flow nearly doubled to $1.09 billion, or $1.48 per share and its shares gained 49 cents to $25.09.

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:REI.UN) said that quarterly funds from operations rose two per cent to $127 million or 42 cents per unit. Its units declined 11 cents to $27.58.

Shares in home improvement retailer Rona Inc. (TSX:RON) added 11 cents to $11.04 as the company lost $16.6 million or 14 cents per share in the latest quarter, compared with a loss of $36.1 million or 30 cents per share a year ago. Revenue fell to $764.3 million from $832.9 million.

On the commodity markets, June crude in New York gained $1.11 to US$101.70 a barrel and the energy sector was ahead 0.72 per cent.

The gold sector was the biggest decliner, down about 0.66 per cent as June bullion edged $1 lower to US$1,294.80 an ounce.

The base metals sector was off 0.18 per cent as July copper slipped a penny to US$3.14 a pound after running up over two per cent Monday.

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