The Toronto stock market was slightly higher on Thursday, held back by gold stocks that fell alongside bullion prices following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest move and data showing strong U.S. economic growth.The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 28.73 points to 13,671.95 while the Canadian dollar dipped 0.01 of a cent to 89.45 cents U.S.New York indexes registered solid advances amid data showing U.S. growth coming in at an annualized rate of 3.2 per cent, slightly lower than the 4.1 per cent rate in the July-September period. But for all of 2014, analysts are more optimistic with many forecasting GDP growth of three per cent or better.“With the tailwinds that seem to be at the back of the U.S. from energy to manufacturing to housing . . . people have grown more comfortable with the potential for actual acceleration of growth in the U.S. to that three per cent level,” said Mark Bayko, vice-president and portfolio manager at RBC Dominion Securities.The Dow Jones industrials rose 80.92 points to 15,819.71, the Nasdaq climbed 57.11 points to 4,108.54 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 14.11 points to 1,788.31.The Fed said Wednesday that it was cutting its bond purchases by another US$10 billion to $65 billion a month. It was the central bank’s second such move to cut back on the stimulus program to keep long-term rates low.Investors have also been focused on fourth-quarter earnings and outlooks over the past couple of weeks on hopes that a strong corporate showing will help stocks. Last year, the Fed stimulus helped the S&P 500 charge ahead about 30 per cent.On Thursday, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX:POT) shares lost $1.40 to C$34.18 as fourth-quarter profit dropped 45 per cent from a year ago to US$230 million or 26 cents a share, five cents less than expected. Revenue of US$1.54 billion missed expectations of $1.4 billion.Imperial Oil’s profit amounted to $1.24 per share, well above analyst estimates of 89 cents per share under standard accounting. Its shares headed 75 cents lower to $45.04.In New York, Facebook jumped 16 per cent as the social media company reported results Wednesday that exceeded expectations.The industrials sector led advancers on the Toronto market, up one per cent ahead of earnings from Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) after the close. It is expected to earn 77 cent per share in adjusted profits in the fourth quarter, up from 71 cents per share in the prior year and its shares were ahead 69 cents to C$58.77.The energy sector was ahead 0.15 per cent while the March crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 86 cents to US$98.22 a barrel.The gold sector fell 2.6 per cent while the February gold bullion contract lost $19.60 to US$1,242.60 an ounce. Goldcorp (TSX:G) fell 98 cents to C$26.66.Metal prices were lower with the March copper contract down two cents to US$3.22 a pound and the base metals sector was down 1.3 per cent. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) fell 52 cents to C$27.22.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts coal to remain the dominant fuel for power generation until 2035 despite projected strong increases in natural gas and renewable fuel use over the same period. EIA’s revised Annual Energy Outlook, released last week, shows coal’s share of the market dropping to 43% in 2035 from 45% in 2009, but remaining the largest fuel source as gas use is forecast to rise to 25% from 23%. Renewable fuels will rise to 14% of the electricity generation market from 11% last year due to federal subsidies and eventually benefiting from state incentives. Investments in new coal capacity decrease over the 25-year forecast period, said EIA. Natural gas plays a larger role, said EIA, because new data suggests shale gas supplies are much larger (827 tcf) than was suspected by EIA just last year (353 tcf). Estimates of much larger reserves will hold wellhead prices under $6/MM Btu (2009 dollars) through the mid-point of the forecast period before rising to $6.8/MM Btu in 2035. Gas-fired capacity additions increase 135 GW between 2009 and 2035. Although EIA more than doubled its estimate of unconventional gas reserves, it cited low prices, environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing and the brief productive periods for shale gas wells among factors creating considerable uncertainty about the ready availability of shale gas. In addition, “increases in recoverable shale gas resources embody many assumptions that might prove to be incorrect over the long term,” according to EIA.The outlook also analysed the sensitivity in power generation markets to various assumed requirements for environmental retrofits for coal plants. Its reference case estimates a 3% reduction in the US coal fleet, with the projected retirement of nine gigawatts of coal generating capacity.Some revisions of note from the early release of the report in December include the retirement of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant by the end of 2019, wind capacity additions of 7 GW rather than 10 GW and updated natural gas reserve reporting.