Miners push TSX higher as traders look to US data

Mining stocks pushed the Toronto stock market higher Tuesday amid rising metal prices while traders took in data showing how winter weather impacted the U.S. housing sector.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 27.7 points to 14,306.25.The Canadian dollar jumped 0.06 of a cent to 89.39 cents US.U.S. markets were positive as the Dow Jones industrials ran up 98.77 points to 16,375.46, the Nasdaq was ahead 32.93 points to 4,259.32, while the S&P 500 index climbed 10.2 points to 1,867.64.Traders also digested comments from Charles Plosser, the president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, who told CNBC he expects short-term interest rates to hit “two-something” at the end of 2015 and three per cent at the end of 2016.Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen caught markets unaware last week when she said that the Fed could start increasing rates from near zero about six months after the end of its bond buying program.Plosser said the reaction surprised him, saying her timetable “wasn’t a wildly unexpected timeframe.” Meanwhile, cold weather continued to limit buying last month as U.S. new-home sales dropped by 3.3 per cent in February.The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite also indicated that U.S. home prices ticked down 0.1 per cent in January in a third month of declines, with 12 of 20 tracked cities posting drops. On a seasonally adjusted basis, home prices in January rose 0.8 per cent.The U.S. Conference Board’s gauge of U.S. consumer confidence rose to 82.3 in March from an upwardly revised 78.3 in February. The reading was slightly short of the 78 reading that economists had expected.Elsewhere on the economic front, business confidence in Germany slipped back from a 2 1/2-year high as tensions over Ukraine cloud companies’ outlook for the next six months. The Ifo Institute said its monthly confidence index dropped to 110.7 points this month from 111.3 in February.German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that she wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Russia’s actions in Ukraine but has made clear she won’t shy away from economic sanctions if the situation escalates.Commodities advanced as May copper was up five cents to US$2.99 a pound and the TSX base metals sector improved by 3.1 per cent.The gold sector climbed 1.5 per cent as April bullion climbed $4.10 to US$1,315.30 an ounce.May crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange erased early gains to decline 32 cents to US$99.28 a barrel and the energy sector edged 0.1 per cent higher.The tech sector was also supportive, up 0.9 per cent with BlackBerry (TSX:BB) ahead 16 cents to $10.66 ahead of earnings on Friday.Elsewhere on the corporate front, Air Canada is continuing its efforts to cut costs by replacing its regular service on some routes U.S. routes from Vancouver and Calgary with its low-cost subsidiary Rouge starting this spring. Air Canada shares rose nine cents to $5.79.

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