China data helps keep TSX steady; BlackBerry flat after bid

Reuters
Sign shows TSX information in Toronto
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A sign shows TSX information in Toronto September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index edged higher on Monday as positive Chinese economic data and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's election victory offset uncertainty about U.S. Federal Reserve's policy direction.

Smartphone maker BlackBerry grabbed much of the Toronto market's attention after it signed a tentative deal to be acquired by a consortium led by its biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd , for $4.7 billion.

BlackBerry stock, which was down nearly 7 percent in early trading, rebounded after news of the deal and ended the day at C$9.08, unchanged from Friday's closing price. On Friday, the company said it will report a huge quarterly loss and cut more than a third of its global workforce.

Fairfax closed up 1.1 percent at C$420.45.

More generally, the market was encouraged by a slew of surveys that showed a burst of new orders for businesses in China and Europe, suggesting a rebound in those economies.

In Germany, Merkel began trying to persuade her center-left rivals to keep her in power after her conservatives notched up their best election result in more than two decades but fell short of an absolute majority.

The market remained focused on the Fed's next steps after the U.S. central bank surprised markets last week by keeping its stimulus program fully in place.

"Overall the tone is positive," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver. "There's a lot of money on the sidelines. We've been telling our clients to get in."

The biggest gains were recorded in the telecoms sector.

After top U.S. telecommunications companies declined to register for a Canadian wireless spectrum auction, shares of the major Canadian incumbents gained.

BCE Inc advanced 1.3 percent to C$44.51, Rogers Communications Inc was up 1.2 percent at C$45.36, and Telus Corp rose 2.5 percent to C$35.44.

"Now that concerns about foreign competition have waned, the sector is back again in focus," Picardo said. "On that note, the Fed's announcement last week has put some new life into dividend-paying stocks."

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 4.71 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,811.18. It has gained about 5.6 percent this quarter.

Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.

Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, climbed 0.4 percent. Royal Bank of Canada , the country's biggest lender, rose 0.5 percent to C$66.26, and Toronto-Dominion Bank added 0.3 percent to C$91.35.

But the healthcare group shed 2.1 percent.

Pharmacy benefit manager Catamaran Corp dropped 4.7 percent to C$49.29, and the drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International gave back 1.1 percent to C$106.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

(Editing by Peter Galloway)

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