TORONTO - The Toronto stock market headed for a higher open Thursday amid strong earnings reports.
The Canadian dollar was off 0.12 of a cent to 91.51 cents US after charging ahead almost four-tenths of a cent Wednesday in the wake of a much better than expected trade surplus for June.
U.S. futures were also positive as the Dow Jones industrial futures rose 24 points to 16,419, the Nasdaq futures gained 3.7 points to 3,872.5 and the S&P 500 futures were ahead 3.5 points to 1,918.25.
In the background are ongoing tensions over the crisis in Ukraine and fresh Russian sanctions on the West. Trading has been lacklustre over the last several sessions as traders worry about Russia getting more involved in the Ukraine government's fight against pro-Russian rebels. Western leaders have accused Russia of massing troops on the border with Ukraine, although Russia has denied those claims.
Analysts have said there are also concerns that the Federal Reserve could hike U.S. interest rates sooner than thought.
But on Thursday, traders focused on earnings, particularly in the insurance sector where Manulife Financial announced it is starting to restore the big dividend cut it made in 2009 in the wake of the financial collapse. At that time, it cut its dividend in half. It is now raising its quarterly dividend 2.5 cents to 15.5 cents per share. Manulife also said that second-quarter net income more than tripled to $943 million, or 49 cents per share as the growth of its insurance operations in Asia continued to escalate and its North American mutual fund business improved.
After markets closed Wednesday, Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF) delivered overall operating net income, excluding certain items and discontinued operations, of $488 million or 80 cents per share, up from $431 million or 71 cents per share in the second quarter of 2013. That beat analyst estimates of 66 cents a share.
Great-West Lifeco Inc. (TSX:GWO) had $615 million of net income in the second quarter, an 18 per cent increase from the same time last year. The profit amounted to 61.6 cents per common share and in line with analyst estimates of 62 cents per share.
Elsewhere, Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) says quarterly net income grew to $223 million, or 75 cents per share, compared to a loss of $23 million, or nine cents per share, a year ago.
Operating revenues grew to $3.3 billion from $3.06 billion in the comparable period as the airline said that its lower-cost Rouge carrier operations have exceeded expectations.
Canadian Tire Corp. (TSX:CTC.A) posted second-quarter net income of $178.9 million, or $2.12 per share, compared to $154.9 million or $1.91 a year earlier. Despite a late start to spring, revenue increased to $3.17 billion from $3.02 billion helped by sales at its Sport Chek stores.
Overseas, the European Central Bank said that it is leaving benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.15 per cent. The decision was widely expected, in part because the ECB has little room to cut with rates so close to zero. Interest will turn to the upcoming press conference of ECB President Mario Draghi. In particular, investors will be interested to hear what he says about the economic impact of the Ukraine crisis and the overall shaky recovery in the eurozone.
Oil and metal prices recovered after losing ground Wednesday with the September crude contract in New York ahead 32 cents higher to US$97.24 a barrel.
September copper gained a cent to US$3.17. December bullion held steady after a $23 runup, off 60 cents to US$1,307.60 an ounce.