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TSX set to advance amid hopes that China's will take steps to bolster growth


TORONTO - The Toronto stock market looked set for a positive session Monday amid hopes that data showing continued contraction of China's manufacturing sector will force authorities to take steps to meet its growth target.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.07 of a cent to 89.14 cents US.

U.S. futures were slightly higher after the preliminary version of HSBC’s purchasing managers’ index for China dropped to 48.1 in March from February’s 48.5. It was the lowest reading since July 2013 and was below consensus expectations of a modest rise.

The Dow Jones industrial futures gained 26 points to 16,247, the Nasdaq futures rose nine points to 3,648 while the S

The worse-than-expected Chinese data suggested that the slowdown in the world’s second biggest economy is deepening.

"The government needs to take quick action in view of its growth target of about 7.5 per cent," said a commentary from Barclays Research.

Analysts say Beijing will likely introduce a series of pro-growth measures focusing on accelerating fiscal spending on infrastructure and reforms.

Prices on commodity markets were generally higher with May crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 40 cents to US$99.86 a barrel.

May copper gained one cent to US$2.96 a pound while April bullion shed $12.30 to US$1,323.70 an ounce.

In corporate developments, Telus (TSX:T) has reached an agreement to purchase Enode Inc., an IT company based in Quebec, for an undisclosed amount. The company provides information security and risk management for business and government agencies.

On the earnings front, investors will be looking to reports from yogawear retailer Lululemon Athletica when it reports its fourth-quarter on Thursday. Expectations are somewhat muted after the company said in January that results for this quarter would be lower than expected.

And BlackBerry (TSX:BB) is due to report its fourth-quarter financial results on Friday. On average, investors expect the smartphone maker to post revenue of $1.1 billion and a net loss of about 57 cents a share. That is down sharply from a year ago when BlackBerry posted revenue of $2.2 billion and earnings per share of 18 cents.

European bourses were in the red as London's FTSE 100 index lost 0.37 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX was down 0.57 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 declined 0.62 per cent.

Earlier in Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.8 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.8 per cent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index widened gains after the release of the manufacturing survey, rising 1.1 per cent.