TSX up as Fed minutes indicate dissension on US job growth

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was higher mid-afternoon Wednesday while traders got some reassurance about interest rates from the latest Federal Reserve meeting.The S&P/TSX composite index rose 40.78 points to 15,517.95. The Canadian dollar was down 0.22 of a cent at 91.16 cents US as the greenback strengthened after the release of the minutes.Most U.S. markets maintained minor advances as the minutes indicated that the Fed showed greater dissension among members on how fast the labour market is improving, a key element in determining when the Fed will raise rates from near zero where they’ve been since the financial crisis.The Dow Jones industrials edged up 21.45 points to 16,941.04, the Nasdaq declined 5.53 points to 4,521.98 and the S&P 500 index climbed 0.89 of a point at 1,982.49.The Fed has emphasized that economic data, not the calendar, will determine when it hikes rates, generally expected around the middle of 2015.Slack in the labour market has been a particular concern, a topic that Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to address in her speech to the central bank’s economic symposium at the end of the week.“We’re looking to confirm the Fed’s accommodative stance and give us a bit of insight on how they think about the slack in the labour market,” said Patrick Blais, managing director and portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.While U.S. job growth has been coming in at around 200,000 monthly, the participation rate has drifted down to a percentage in the lows 60s.“And, in the back of their mind, they want to play safe and make sure the U.S. is on a real sustainable footing before giving any indication that they’re going to retreat from their easy monetary policy stance.”Traders also digested a mixed bag of data from the retail sector.Sears Canada Inc. (TSX:SCC) reported a quarterly net loss of $21.3 million, or 21 cents per share, compared with a profit of $152.8 million, or $1.50, a year ago. Same-store sales dropped 6.8%, which the company attributed partly to an unseasonably cool spring. Its shares added three cents to $16.10.U.S. retailer Target, which is in the midst of a costly expansion into Canada, posted adjusted earnings of 78 cents a share, a penny less than expected. Revenue came in at US$17.41 billion, higher than the US$17.38 that analysts expected. Its shares erased early losses to advance $1.01 to US$60.26 as Target also cut its 2014 forecast to US$3.10 to US$3.30 per share , versus the previous forecast of US$3.49.Quarterly net income at home improvement retailer Lowe’s increased 10% to US$1.04 billion, or $1.04 per share, bolstered by improving weather. The performance beat analysts’ expectations, but the company lowered its full-year revenue outlook slightly. Its shares were up 66 cents at US$52.18.The metals and mining sector led advancers, up 1.8% as September copper jumped nine cents to US$3.18 a pound. Some analysts attributed the jump to strong signs of a rebound in the U.S. housing sector, including strong data on housing starts and a jump in a prominent builders confidence survey.The energy gained 0.23% with September crude up 62 cents to US$95.10 a barrel.The gold sector faded 0.1% as December bullion dipped $1.50 to US$1,295.20 an ounce. read more