The Toronto stock market registered a modest gain Tuesday as key economic data reinforced the view that the U.S. recovery is still on track, helping to make up for worsening conditions in Europe.The S&P/TSX composite index was up 17.95 points to 12,713.09, weighed down by declining resource stocks as miners fell alongside copper and gold prices. The other TSX sectors were positive.The Canadian dollar was off early highs but still up 0.14 of a cent at 98.5 cents US.U.S. indexes were positive as the Dow Jones industrials ran ahead 103.79 points to 14,676.64 as traders looked to the February report on U.S. factory orders, which showed a jump of three per cent following decline in January that was revised to one per cent from two per cent.The Nasdaq composite index was ahead 26.62 points to 3,265.79 and the S&P 500 index climbed 10.66 points to 1,572.83.Markets also got a lift from strong auto sales figures for the U.S.“I think the trend line is going the right way,” said Chris King, portfolio manager at Morgan, Meighen and Associates. “In essence, it says the aspects of manufacturing or auto sales combined with the housing sector and the banking sector, all the elements continue to improve in one of the most critical aspects for the U.S. and that’s the wealth effect that consumers feel.”Chrysler’s U.S. sales rose five per cent in March as the company sold more cars and trucks than in any month since the U.S. went into recession in December 2007 — several months before Canada was dragged into a global downturn. Chrysler sold almost 172,000 cars and trucks in March, led by the Ram pickup with an increase of 25 per cent.GM sales rose 6.4 per cent to 245,950 while Ford sales jumped 5.7 per cent in its best month since May 2007.“American sales have been cruising at a plus-15 million annualized rate for the past four months and show no sign of slowing,” observed BMO Capital Markets senior economist Alex Koustas. “Canadian sales shot out of the gate in Q1 2012, and while they haven’t quite kept up the near-record pace in 2013, they’re still set in the fast lane cruising at a plus-1.7 million annualized rate.”The gold sector led TSX decliners, down 2.2 per cent amid declining gold prices as June bullion declined $18.40 to US$1,582.50 ounce, taking the gold sector down two per cent. The sector is down 25 per cent over the past year as the bottom line for miners has come under increasing pressure from falling prices and higher costs to get the ore out of the ground. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) faded 48 cents to C$29 while Iamgold (TSX:IMG) fell 31 cents to $6.91.May copper was a cent lower at US$3.36 a pound after closing Monday at an eight-month low. The base metals sector moved down 0.75 per cent, adding up to an 18 per cent tumble over the past year, reflecting lower demand, particularly from China, amid a slow global economic recovery. HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) declined 18 cents to C$9.46.Utilities led advancers, up 0.9 per cent as Atlantic Power (TSX:ATP) gained 29 cents to $5.03.Consumer staples was up 0.8 per cent as convenience store owner Alimentation Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.B) rose 70 cents to $55.76.Insurers helped keep the financial sector positive as Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) rose 20 cents to $14.94.The energy sector was up 0.45 per cent even as the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped 70 cents to US$96.37 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) gained 28 cents to C$31.11.The steady recovery in the U.S. has been supporting markets in the face of financial trouble in the 17-country eurozone, where the economy continues to shrink as governments deal with high levels of debt by imposing deep budget cuts. Data released Tuesday showed that unemployment in the single-currency bloc hit a record high in January and February of 12 per cent, the highest since the currency was launched in 1999.The tiny Mediterranean country of Cyprus has also recently deepened concerns about the future of the currency union. The worry in the markets is that the chaos surrounding the country’s bailout may have further dented confidence across the eurozone, which could further depress economic performance.European markets were up sharply despite the glum jobless data as London’s FTSE 100 index rose 1.3 per cent while Frankfurt’s DAX climbed 1.29 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 was ahead 1.29 per cent.In corporate news, TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) shares gained 19 cents to $49.48 as it begins to seek firm commitments for new pipeline capacity to move oil from Western to Eastern Canada. The Energy East Pipeline project will involve 3,000 kilometres of existing natural gas pipeline, converted to carry crude, and 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline that could stretch as far as New Brunswick. TransCanada is seeking binding commitments for delivery points in Montreal, Quebec City and Saint John, N.B.
TSX rises amid strong US factory orders vehicle sales