TSX advances in wake of Fed decision to taper stimulus

The Toronto stock market was slightly higher Thursday, a day after markets responded enthusiastically to the Federal Reserve’s decision to modestly cut back on a key stimulus program. The Fed also emphasized that short-term rates aren’t going up any time soon.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 9.41 points to 13,344.14 following a 155-point jump after the Fed said it was cutting its US$85 billion of monthly bond purchases by $10 billion starting in January. Further cuts will depend on economic data, particularly jobless levels and inflation.A stronger American currency pushed the Canadian dollar down to mid-2010 lows, moving down 0.08 of a cent to 93.47 cents US early Thursday.U.S. indexes moved lower after racking up big gains Wednesday with the Dow Jones industrials down 33.46 points to 16,134.51 after charging ahead almost 300 points.The Nasdaq declined 17.84 points to 4,052.22 and the S&P 500 index was 7.54 points lower to 1,803.11.The latest instalment of quantitative easing has been around since September 2012 and kept long-term rates low and supported strong gains on many equity markets this year.The tapering of asset purchases will be the first step toward winding down a program that has been in place since the 2008 financial crisis.Most sectors were positive but the TSX was weighed down by a slide of more than two per cent in the much-battered gold sector as bullion prices resumed sliding after the Fed moved to cut back on its latest quantitative easing. QE had supported gold prices because of inflationary fears.But inflation is tame in many countries and data out earlier this week showed the consumer price index rising at an annual rate of only 1.2 per cent, significantly below the Fed’s inflation target of two per cent.The February gold contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $40.70 to US$1,194.30 an ounce. Gold prices are down 39 per cent so far this year while the TSX Global Gold sector has tumbled 49 per cent. On Thursday, Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) fell 31 cents to C$17.77 and Goldcorp (TSX:G) faded 57 cents to $22.03.Elsewhere on commodity markets, the base metals component moved 0.8 per cent higher while March copper slipped three cents to US$3.29 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) climbed 34 cents to C$25.08.January crude gained 42 cents to US$98.22 a barrel and the energy sector gained 0.3 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) was ahead 28 cents to C$34.70.Tech stocks also lifted the TSX with CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) ahead 64 cents to $37.69. BlackBerry (TSX:BB) rose 16 cents to $6.63 a day before the smartphone maker releases its latest earnings.A major decliner was auto parts company Martinrea International (TSX:MRE), which warned that fourth quarter net earnings will likely fall short of previous guidance. Among other things, it pointed to an issue with the financial reporting of one of its Canadian plants. It said “it appears at this point that the plant misreported its financial statements over a number of years dating back to 2005.” Its stock fell $1.44 or 15.29 per cent to $7.98In other corporate news, retailer Target says that about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach. The chain, which has 1,797 U.S. stores and 124 in Canada, said that customers who made purchases using their cards at its U.S. stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 may have been exposed. Target shares declined $1.22 to $62.33.A report from a federal review panel on Enbridge’s (TSX:ENB) proposed Northern Gateway pipeline through B.C. will be released later Thursday (at 4:30 p.m. EST) following more than a year of hearings. The final decision on whether the pipeline can go ahead rests with the federal government. Enbridge slipped 13 cents to $44.98.Facebook says it plans to offer 70 million shares of stock for sale that includes more than 41 million shares from chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The secondary offering of stock comes as the social media network prepares to join the Standard & Poor’s 500 index after the close Friday. Its shares lost $1.14 to $54.43.Most overseas markets also ran up sharply following the Fed’s announcement as London’s FTSE 100 index ran up 1.05 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX rose 1.17 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 advanced 1.12 per cent.