TSX steady after BCE dividend hike
The Toronto stock market was relatively flat near midday Wednesday as a dividend boost from BCE Inc. was weighed against caution ahead of a slate of upcoming Chinese economic data.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 1.2 points at 11,862.30, while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 1.87 points to 1,188.69.The Canadian dollar rose to 100.55 cents US, up 0.30 of a cent.Leading the upside on the TSX were telecom stocks, up 1.4 per cent after BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) announced an increase to both its dividend and 2012 earnings forecast.The telecom and media company says the dividend will rise to $2.27 per share annually, or 56.75 cents per share quarterly, beginning with the October payout. Adjusted earnings have been increased by two cents per share, to a range of between $3.15 and $3.20 per share.The Montreal-based company said its profit rose to $773 million, or $1 per share, compared with $590 million or 76 cents a share a year ago. BCE shares gained $1.67 to $44.92.TSX information technology stocks were up 0.8 per cent, with Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) shares rising five per cent, or 35 cents, to $7.67.“The last few days we’ve seen some risk appetite come back to the market,” said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investments. “I think it’s partly due to the fact that a lot of people are expecting the European Central Bank to do a little bit better and help out Spain a little bit more, and potentially do things that will make it easier for some of the troublesome companies to get more funding.”On Wall Street, markets took a modest decline after several consecutive sessions of gains. The Dow Jones industrial average decreased 12.68 points to 13,155.92 and the broader S&P was off 2.11 points to 1,399.24. The Nasdaq fell 8.58 points to 3,007.28.Meanwhile, investors were waiting for China to release inflation, factory output and retail sales data on Thursday. Analysts expect inflation to fall further, which would give authorities in Beijing room to shore up slowing growth by easing credit without fear of igniting a spike in consumer prices.The pause from traders comes after a run-up in stocks over the past couple of weeks, motivated in part by comments from the U.S. and European central banks. Crude oil prices have also started to climb back higher.In commodities, the September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange increased 35 cents to US$94.02 a barrel.September copper moved down 1.8 cents to US$3.423 a pound, while December gold rose $3 to US$1,615.80 an ounce.In Canadian earnings, Air Canada Inc. (TSX:AC.B) reported a $96-million net loss in the three-month period, more than double the $46 million it lost a year earlier and more than analysts had expected. Revenue was flat, rising a slight $71 million to $2.99 billion. Shares were down nine cents to $1.06.Rona Inc. (TSX:RON) says its profit fell to $34.1 million in the second quarter, a penny below estimates and down from $37 million a year earlier. Revenue at Canada’s biggest home-improvement chain was in line with estimates, rising by 3.4 per cent from a year ago to $1.4 billion. Shares of the company increased six cents to $13.81.In Europe, Germany’s DAX lost 0.5 per cent to 6,932 while France’s CAC-40 was 0.5 per cent lower at 3,437. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 per cent to 5,817 after the Bank of England cut its growth and inflation forecasts. That has confirmed many economists’ expectations that the Bank of England will provide more monetary stimulus later this year.Many of Europe’s indexes have hit multi-month highs on hopes the European Central Bank will soon unveil a new anti-crisis strategy. Those hopes have helped ease the bond market pressure on Italy and Spain. The latter has seen its benchmark 10-year bond yield settle below the seven per cent threshold considered unsustainable in the long run.Earlier in Asia, most markets ended higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 per cent to 8,881.16. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.9 per cent to 1,903.23 as sentiment improved a day ahead of a Bank of Korea meeting where policy-makers are expected to lower interest rates to stimulate the economy. And China’s main index in Shanghai rose 0.2 per cent at 2,160.99.But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell marginally to 20,065.52 as investors became cautious ahead of the release of the key economic data in China.