Closing Bell TSX closes lower ends week higher on economic optimism

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed lower Friday at the end of a positive week where indications that the U.S. economy didn’t take a major weather-related hit this winter helped ease the prospect of higher interest rates.The S&P/TSX composite index was 26.07 points lower at 14,335.76.The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.26 of a cent at 89.21 cents US in the wake of a better than expected reading on retail sales for January and slowing price pressures.Statistics Canada said retail sales were up 1.3%, against the 0.7% rise that had been expected.U.S. markets were also off the best levels of the session even as data suggested that the America’s economic growth should bounce back following a harsh winter.The Dow Jones industrials dropped 28.35 points to 16,302.7, while the Nasdaq fell 42.5 points to 4,276.79 and the S&P 500 index was down 5.58 points at 1,866.43.The U.S. Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose in February by the largest amount in three months. And a key manufacturing reading, the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index, rebounded in March from a negative reading in February.The data helped persuade investors that the U.S. economy is strengthening to a point where it can withstand higher short-term interest rates.“(The data) could have been a whole lot worse — all the talk earlier was that it was going to be a lot worse,” said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.“But when they finally get down to the numbers, they escaped a bit, we escaped along with them and it gives you a good feeling.”Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. central bank could begin raising short-term rates six months after it halts its bond purchases around year’s end. The Fed has been steadily cutting back on those purchases, a key element of stimulus that had kept long-term rates low, since December.The tech sector fell 1.75% and BlackBerry (TSX:BB) shares dropped 42 cents to $10.19 as it announced the sale of a majority of its real estate holdings in Canada. Terms of the deal and the buyer were not disclosed.The gold sector fell about 0.7% even as the April gold contract gained $5.50 to US$1,336 an ounce after four days of declines as traders hoped the Ukraine crisis wouldn’t worsen.The industrials sector was down 0.6%. Conductors, yard workers and other train workers at Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) have rejected a second tentative contract, prompting the company to suggest the talks go to a form of binding arbitration. Its shares were down 71 cents to $62.13.Economic optimism sent oil and copper higher, with May copper up two cents to US$2.95 a pound. The base metals sector gained 1.47%.The May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 56 cents to US$99.46 a barrel and the energy sector rose 0.48%.The consumer staples sector was ahead 0.62% as Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) received approval from the Competition Bureau for its $12.4-billion purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. (TSX:SC), on the condition that it sell 18 stores and nine pharmacies. Loblaw shares rose 79 cents to $47.01 and while Shoppers gained 57 cents to $61.18.Worries about Chinese growth and the Ukraine crises had depressed markets last week but the TSX ran ahead this week by 108 points or 0.76%, held back by sliding gold stocks. The Dow industrials advanced 237 points or 1.48%.The Canadian Press

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