TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed modestly higher Tuesday amid data that indicated the eurozone economy is improving and a positive reception for BlackBerry's new Z10 smartphone.
The S&P/TSX composite index was off early highs partly because of declining gold stocks but still ahead 28.02 points to 12,745.65 while the TSX Venture Exchange was down 1.23 points at 1,215.27.
BlackBerry (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) shares were up 95 cents, or 6.34 per cent, to $15.94 on very heavy volume of 18 million shares on the TSX as the new touchscreen device went on sale in Canada. It went on sale in the U.K. last week but won't be available in the U.S. until mid-March because of further testing being done by U.S. phone carriers.
The stock has been very volatile since the new product was launched last Wednesday and analysts say that won't change until BlackBerry's next earnings are released in a couple of months and investors find out just how well the phone has sold.
"Theyíve at least rolled the product up, so people can touch it, feel it, use it," said Craig Fehr, Canadian markets specialist with Edward Jones in St. Louis.
"(But) at the end of the day, itís going to be about phone sales. Itís going to be about contracts, revenues and what they do with their cash position, how much they will have to pay to make themselves a little bit more relevant again in this smartphone space. And all of that remains a question mark."
There was also major acquisition activity in the tech sector as computer maker Dell agreed to be taken private by its founder and a group of investors that includes Microsoft in a deal worth US$24.4 billion. Shareholders are receiving $13.65 per share for their stock. Dell shares inched up 15 cents to US$13.42.
The Canadian dollar edged up 0.24 of a cent at 100.38 cents US.
New York's Dow Jones industrials advanced 99.22 points to 13,979.30.
The Nasdaq climbed 40.41 points to 3,171.58 and the S&P 500 index gained 15.58 points to 1,511.29.
Markit, a financial information group, said its purchasing managers' index for the eurozone economy rose to a 10-month high of 48.6 in January from 47.2 in December.
Despite the data, the region continues to face a number of headwinds, including the serious government debt problems of many of its members.
Meanwhile, Italyís general election at the end of this month looks like it may yield a split parliament, which would make it more difficult to push through much needed economic reforms. And the Spanish government is embroiled in a corruption scandal over alleged secret cash payments that has raised questions over the future of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Worries about the eurozone helped send North American markets lower on Monday, prompting some investors to take profits from strong gains racked up in January.
"What yesterday showed was that the financial crisis and the debt crisis in Europe is not solved and is still one of those things that can cut the strings from this rally a bit," added Fehr.
"But I think this data does show that itís the rate of change thatís really improving. Weíre seeing a slowdown in the rate of contraction which has to start before you grow again."
The consumer staples sector was the second biggest advancer next to the tech sector as grocer Loblaw Cos. (TSX:L) gained 58 cents to $40.77.
Industrial stocks helped take the TSX higher with transport giant Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) ahead a dime to $4.05.
The energy sector was up 0.57 per cent with the March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 47 cents to US$96.64 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) climbed 22 cents to C$34.38.
March copper was unchanged at US$3.77 a pound and the base metals sector 0.23 added per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) ran up 36 cents to C$36.87.
The gold sector was the leading TSX decliner, down about 0.5 per cent while April bullion declined $2.90 to US$1,673.50 an ounce. Alamos Gold (TSX:AGI) faded 28 cents to C$15.03.
On the earnings front, telecom provider Bell Aliant Inc. (TSX:BA) says it had $70 million of net income or 31 cents a share in the fourth quarter, a $10-million decline from the same period of 2011. Adjusted earnings came in at 37 cents, four cents less than expectations. The regional telecom companyís operating revenue was down 0.8 per cent to $695 million and its shares were up 63 cents to $26.18.
In other corporate developments, the two rival groups that have been competing to buy Primaris Retail Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:PMZ.UN), one of Canadaís largest shopping mall operators, have reached a $4.6-billion compromise. Some of the Primaris properties will be bought by the KingSett Capital consortium but H&R Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:HR.UN) will end up owning Primaris and the rest of its portfolio. Primaris units were 57 cents higher to $27.50 while H&R units lost 16 cents to $23.50.
U.S. indexes were also lifted by solid housing data. Home prices jumped by the most in 6 1/2 years in December, helped along by a low supply of available homes and rising demand. CoreLogic, a real estate data provider, says home prices rose 8.3 per cent in December compared with a year earlier.
However, the Institute for Supply Managementís index of non-manufacturing activity dipped to 55.2 in January from 55.7 in December. Thatís above the 12-month average of 54.5. The report measures growth in industries that cover 90 per cent of the work force, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.