TSX falls as worrying China data drives down commodities

TORONTO — Mining stocks pushed the resource-heavy Toronto stock market slightly lower Monday while commodities fell amid weak Chinese trade data and disappointing Japanese growth figures for the fourth quarter.The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 14.89 points to 14,284.19, following a 0.6 per cent rise last week.The weak economic data from overseas coupled with Friday’s weak employment report pushed the Canadian dollar down 0.17 of a cent to 90 cents after sliding 0.1 per cent last week.New York indexes were also in the red as the Dow Jones industrials lost 78.9 points to 16,373.82, the Nasdaq was down 12.92 points to 4,323.3 while the S&P 500 index was off 6.3 points to 1,871.74.Data released on the weekend showed China’s exports fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February.China’s official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 per cent.“The focus will likely remain on China in an otherwise quiet week, with January-February activity data due on Thursday,” said a commentary from Barclays Research.“We expect the message to be moderately slower growth, given the soft demand outlook suggested by the recent PMI readings, and lower inflation.”Meanwhile, Japan reported Monday a record current account deficit for January, and lowered its economic growth estimate for the October-December quarter to 0.7 per cent from one per cent.The base metals sector led TSX losers, down 2.4 per cent as copper prices fell for a second session in the wake of the Chinese data, with the May contract in New York losing another three cents to US$3.05 a pound. Prices for the metal tumbled 14 cents Friday after Chinese authorities allowed the country’s first corporate bond default, which fuelled speculation as to how many more companies may be in a similar situation.The energy sector lost 0.3 per cent while the weak overseas data pushed the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down $1.48 to US$101.10 a barrel.Bullion prices were little changed with the April contract off 20 cents to US$1,338 but the gold sector eased 0.5 per cent.There were minor gains in the consumer staples and financial sectors.On the corporate front, Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) shares dipped four cents to $25.26 a day after Pierre Karl Peladeau, until recently the head of the media conglomerate, announced that he’s going to run for the Parti Quebecois. Peladeau resigned Sunday morning as vice-chairman of the conglomerate founded by his father. Peladeau remains a shareholder.The Second Cup Ltd. (TSX:SCU) recorded net income of $1.18 million or 12 cents a share, improved from the year earlier loss of $12 million a year ago when Second Cup recognized the impaired value of its assets. Adjusted earnings per share was 17 cents, down from 18.2 cents per share a year earlier. Its shares were down 23 cents $38.58.In the U.S., Chiquita agreed to combine with Dublin-based Fyffes to become the world’s top banana company. The stock-for-stock transaction creates a global banana and fresh produce company with $4.6 billion in annual revenues. Chiquita rose $1.48, or 12.8 per cent, to US$12.23. read more