US stock indexes mostly down in afternoon trading; oil rises

USA crude settled up 1.7 per cent at US$50.35 a barrel. That represented an improvement on a year earlier when it posted a loss of US$238mln, or 45 cents a share. CIBC said it offered about US$4.9 billion in cash and stock, up from the earlier US$3.8 billion offer.

Elsewhere in the financial sector, Toronto-Dominion Bank's chief executive officer told shareholders at the bank's annual meeting that it does not have a "widespread problem" with its sales practices, responding to a report staffers were pressured to meet targets.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the energy index's 0.51 percent rise leading the advancers.

That's the smallest average since the fourth quarter of 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson was the USA president.

Stripping out one-off items, the company's earnings per share this time round were positive at four cents; analysts who follow the stock had expected earnings per share to be on or around zero.

US stock indexes edged higher in early trading Thursday as investors weighed the latest batch of company earnings, deal news and economic data. NASDAQ 100 index gained 9.47 points or 0.17 percent to close at 5,439.74.

The report said real GDP climbed by 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previously reported 1.9 percent increase. Exxon Mobil slid $1.65, or 2 percent, to $82.05.

That rally stalled recently as investors assessed the impact of Republicans' failure to pass a healthcare bill on tax reform and the rest of Trump's economic agenda.

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"It's not just the USA economy, but we do see definitely improvement throughout the world", Cavanaugh said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 69.17 points, or 0.3%, to settle at 20,728.49. In February, the Dow closed at an all-time high for a record-setting 12 days straight. May Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange rose 54 cents, or 1%, to $52.96, with the contract set to expire at Friday's settlement.

Utilities stocks, which are commonly viewed as a defensive play, rose 0.3%.

Canada's two biggest rail operators also dragged, with Canadian Pacific Railway slipping 0.7 per cent to $196.02 and Canadian National Railway off 0.3 per cent to $98.92. First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 10.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Traders cheered several corporate deals.

The market will be looking at quarterly earnings to see if the lofty valuations can be supported. This is based on the trend seen during the mid-day of trading session.

On the other hand, gold stocks have shown a notable move to the downside, dragging the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index down by 1%.

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