TSX, U.S. markets climb ahead of speeches by U.S. Fed presidents, BoC

TORONTO - North American markets surged ahead at the open Tuesday as investors awaited for signs from the U.S. Federal Reserve on when the central bank will scale down its $85-billion bond buy back program.

Almost all sectors on the S

The Canadian dollar was up 0.01 of a cent to 97.18 cents US.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials index was ahead by 60.67 points to 15,395.95, the S

With not much in the way of economic or corporate news on the docket, the focus will be on scheduled speeches by two Fed presidents who have voting rights on the interest-rate setting committee.

St. Louis Fed president James Bullard will is set to give a speech about monetary policy in Frankfurt, while New York Fed president William Dudley will touch on Japan and U.S. policy in New York.

Both speeches will be eyed carefully ahead of a much-anticipated statement by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday before the U.S. Congress.

The central bank will also release minutes of its most recent policy meeting on Wednesday. Both events have the potential to alter the prevailing backdrop in financial markets.

At issue, is how long the Fed will continue with its latest round of massive bond purchases known as quantitative easing. The monetary stimulus is aimed at driving down interest rates and encourage lending.

But a recent run of strong U.S. economic data, largely related to housing and jobs, has fuelled speculation that the Fed might consider changing course. The prospect of a less-easy monetary policy has put a brake on stocks this week.

In Toronto, the resource-heavy index was boosted by an increase of 1.22 per cent in the metals and mining sector as July copper jumped a penny to US$3.37 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) was ahead by 1.72 per cent, or 48 cents, to $28.46 while shares in Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) were up nearly five per cent or 16 cents to $3.68.

The price in gold continued to fall as June bullion dropped $24.40 to US$1,359.70 an ounce, while the gold sector was the leading advancer on the TSX, climbing by 2.38 per cent.

The June crude contract was down 17 cents to US$96.54 a barrel as the energy sector gained 1.69 per cent.

Mark Carney will deliver his last official speech as Bank of Canada governor to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal before leaving the central bank to head the Bank of England. The statement is not expected to have much of an impact on the markets as investors will be more interested in what incoming governor Stephen Poloz will say when he assumes the role in the beginning of June.

It was pretty quiet on the corporate front, as Home Depot (NYSE:HD) reported an 18 per cent increase in its net income for the first quarter thanks to the ongoing housing recovery.

The world's biggest home improvement chain also boosted its full-year earnings and revenue forecasts, citing its year-to-date performance and outlook for the rest of the year. Its shares climbed nearly three per cent, or $2.04 to US$78.80.

For the three months that ended May 5, Home Depot Inc. earned US$1.23 billion, or 83 cents per share, up from US$1.04 billion, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts predicted earnings of 76 cents per share.

Meanwhile, shares in Best Buy Co. (NYSE:BBY) were down 3.25 per cent, or 84 cents, to US$25.98 as the electronics retailer reported a loss in its first quarter from selling its stake in Best Buy Europe.

Best Buy said its net loss for the three months ended May 4 after paying preferred dividends totalled US$81 million, or 24 cents per share, compared with a profit of $158 million, or 46 cents per share, last year.

Overseas, markets were mixed. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was steady at 6,758, a day after it struck a 12-year closing high, while Germany's DAX fell 0.5 per cent to 8,416. The CAC-40 in France was 0.6 per cent lower at 3,997.

In Asia, Japan's main Nikkei stock index eked out a small 0.1 per cent gain to close at 15,381.02, its highest finish in more than five years. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.5 per cent to 23,366.37 while South Korea's Kospi fell less than 0.1 per cent to 1,981.09. Benchmarks in mainland China rose too.