TSX up slightly amid mixed economic data sale of major insurer

The Toronto stock market turned slightly higher late morning Monday amid weak Chinese data and dealmaking in the Canadian financial sector.The S&P/TSX composite index was up 19.86 points to 12,393.16, was off early lows, as gold and financial stocks picked up during the morning.Shares of E-L Financial Corp. (TSX:ELF) jumped after it announced the pending $1.125-billion sale of Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company to Travelers Companies Inc. (NYSE:TRV), a major U.S. insurance company. E-L Financial gained $53 or 8.95 per cent to $645 on a volume of 2,400 shares.The Canadian dollar advanced, up 0.1 of a cent to 98.16 cents US as the dollar continued to rally  due to a solid report on the housing sector and last week’s Statistics Canada report showing that job creation for May was better than expected, coming in at an impressive 95,000 jobs.Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Monday that housing starts were trending at 182,756 units in May compared to 182,971 in April. The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts. But the seasonally adjusted standalone annual rate was 200,178 units in May, an increase from 175,922 in April.U.S. indexes were positive after registering sharp gains at the end of last week because of a strong jobs report.The Dow Jones industrials were ahead 32.08 points to 15,280.2, the Nasdaq added 12.27 points to 3,481.48 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 3.53 points to 1,646.91.Traders also took in an upgrade on the U.S. credit rating from Standard & Poor’s. S&P revised its long-term outlook to stable from negative, citing cited economic strength and the dollar’s status as a reserve currency. The agency had downgraded the U.S. sovereign rating to AA-plus from its top rating of AAA in 2011.Prices for oil and copper declined as data released during the weekend showed China’s trade, retail sales and other activity in May were weaker than expected, fuelling concerns about the country’s shaky economic recovery.China’s trade surplus rose to $20.4 billion in May from $18.2 billion in the prior month. However, export growth slowed dramatically to just one per cent from a year ago, which was the slowest increase since July 2012. Imports slipped 0.3 per cent from year-earlier levels.“Of those three figures, I’d say that the weak import result is the most worrying, as it suggests domestic demand has weakened considerably,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Jennifer Lee. “Slower export growth is not surprising, particularly given the slump in Europe but slower imports are a concern.”The gold sector was ahead 0.57 per cent with August bullion up 60 cents to US$1,383.60 an ounce. Kinross Gold (TSX:K) climbed 11 cents to $6.48.July crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange shed 35 cents to US$95.68 a barrel. The energy sector climbed 0.3 per cent and Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) improved by 27 cents to $31.93.Financials were up 0.35 per cent as Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) rose 49 cents to $60.61.The base metals sector gave back 1.2 per cent while July copper fell three cents to $3.24 a pound on top a 10-cent slide over the past two sessions. Copper is widely viewed as an economic barometer as it is used in so many applications. Sector heavyweight Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) lost 66 cents to C$24.99.Railroad stocks fell alongside miners as Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) declined $1.76 to $127.40.The U.S. Labour department announced Friday that the United States created 175,000 jobs in May, a modest number but around 10,000 more than had been expected.Traders hope the U.S. jobs data isn’t strong enough to persuade the Federal Reserve to start reducing bond purchases. The quantitative easing program has kept interest rates low and also helped fuel a strong rally on U.S. stock markets.Markets have been volatile over the past couple of weeks after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank might pull back on its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program if economic data, especially hiring, improved significantly. Other Fed officials have spoken about a winding down of asset purchases sooner.Meanwhile in Japan, the first-quarter growth rate was revised up from an annualized rate of 3.5 per cent to 4.1 per cent. The data sent Tokyo’s Nikkei index up 4.9 per cent,.European bourses were mixed as London’s FTSE 100 index rose 1.2 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX gained 0.74 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 edged up 0.05 per cent.On the corporate front, Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) says capacity on its domestic services will increase more this year than previously forecast. It now expects 2013 domestic capacity will grow by 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent over 2012 levels, a full percentage point above the levels announced in early May, when Air Canada issued its first quarter financial report and its shares advanced slipped one cent to $2.26.McDonald’s says that global sales rose 2.6 per cent at restaurants open at least a year during May, helped by an extra Friday in the month. Its shares rose 1.7 per cent to US$99.94. read more