Stocks rise on ECB hopes

The Toronto stock market was positive Thursday as traders felt more positive about the eurozone debt crisis following a commitment from the president of the European Central Bank to protect the euro.The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 79 points to 11,571.51 after Mario Draghi said that the “ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.” The TSX Venture Exchange was up 5.71 points to 1,178.03.The Canadian dollar surged 0.75 of a cent to 99.25 cents US, supported by rising commodity prices.U.S. markets also ran ahead with the Dow Jones industrials up 226.41 points to 12,902.46.The Nasdaq climbed 44.01 points to 2,898.25 and the S&P 500 index gained 21.07 points to 1,358.96.The eurozone debt crisis has weighed on markets for over two years. Greece, Portugal and Ireland — all countries saddled with huge debts — have been forced to seek bailouts. The crisis has more recently moved to Italy and Spain, which have been forced to pay ever higher yields in order to finance their debts.Market-watchers took Draghi’s comment as a signal that the ECB could be more willing to intervene in markets to lower those borrowing rates — which the bank has in recent months said is not part of its mandate.Market sentiment had also been given a boost already on Wednesday, when ECB policymaker Ewald Nowotny suggested that Europe’s bailout fund could be given a banking licence. That would give it the ability to borrow money from the ECB. Such a move would be of particular significance for Spain and Italy as the current bailout fund does not have enough money to rescue them both.The yield on Spain’s 10-year government bonds fell sharply following Draghi’s comments, moving down 40 basis points to 6.94 per cent. Anything over seven per cent is considered unsustainable in the long run.Despite the positive reaction on markets, there was some skepticism that the eurozone crisis has turned a corner.“We have heard this type of aggressive rhetoric before and look where we are,” observed Ian Pollick, Fixed Income Strategist at RBC Dominion Securities. “It is worth taking these comments with a hint of optimism and a hint of skepticism.”The prospect of further ECB action helped take some of the sting from a run of largely disappointing earnings reports.The gold sector helped limit gains on the TSX after Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) reported quarterly net earnings fell to US$750 million, or 75 cents per share, $1.16 billion a year ago. The results missed analyst expectations by 18 cents per share, according to average estimates from Thomson Reuters.Barrick also said it has launched a review of its mines and projects to determine which ones offer enough return on the investment and its shares dropped $2.62 or 7.6 per cent to $31.87.Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) gained 64 cents to $35.48 even as it reported a 45 per cent drop in second-quarter net earnings from a year ago. It said gold prices remained under pressure for much of quarter and cited production shortfalls at its Red Lake operation. The miner reported adjusted net earnings of $332 million, or 41 cents per share, missing analyst expectations by six cents.Bullion gained $10.50 to US$1,618.60 an ounce.Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (TSX:POT) shares fell 62 cents to $44.67 as the fertilizer giant reported second-quarter earnings of C$522 million, or 60 cents per share, down from $840 million a year ago. The company said while the results reflect strong underlying performance, earnings were impacted by a $341 million impairment recorded on its investment in Chinese fertilizer company Sinofert Holdings Ltd.Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting earnings per share of 99 cents. The company also warned of lower than anticipated profits for 2012.Other commodities advanced with September crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange ahead $1.34 to US$90.31 a barrel. The energy sector was up 1.6 per cent as Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) climbed 71 cents to $31.86.The base metals sector rose 1.7 per cent as copper gained five cents to US$3.42 a pound. Ivanhoe Mines (TSX:IVN) rose 16 cents to $8.33.Railroad stocks also advanced with Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) up another $2.50 to $81.47 after the company issued a well-received earnings report on Wednesday. Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) was up $2.18 to $89.01.Financials were also supportive with Royal Bank (TSX:RY) ahead 44 cents to $50.83.In other earnings news, Dow Chemical Co. said its second-quarter net income fell 34 per cent to US$649 million or 55 cents a share as weaker demand led to lower prices. Softness in Europe and a stronger dollar also weighed on results. The biggest chemical maker in the U.S. missed Wall Street estimates by nine cents and its shares lost 63 cents to US$29.64.Overseas, major companies like engineering group Siemens and carmaker Volkswagen warned that the economic slowdown in Europe would hurt profits in coming quarters.Consumer goods maker Unilever was a bright spot after reporting a strong rise in profits. But its improvement in business was due to growth outside of Europe, where sales in fact fell.European courses jumped following the ECB president’s comments with London’s FTSE 100 index ahead 1.3 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX rose 1.9 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 jumped 3.36 per cent.

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