Positive Finish for TSX

Utility, Staple Stocks Lead Way

Stocks got traction by late afternoon Wednesday, and surged into positive territory by the closing bell, mostly on the strength of utility and consumer staple stocks

The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 35.33 points to close at 15,348.46

The Canadian dollar jumped 0.19 cents to 75.04 cents U.S.

Among health-care concerns, Canopy Growth Corporation dwindled in price 13 cents, or 1.3%, to $9.72, on new private placement financing. Elsewhere, Valeant Pharmaceuticals got bruised 11 cents to $14.25.

Gold also finished negative, as Barrick Gold removed one cent to $25.98, while rival IAMGOLD surrendered 12 cents, or 2.3%, to $5.21.

The financials group slipped, as Royal Bank of Canada fell 22 cents to $95.21, Toronto Dominion Bank slipped 12 cents to $64.72, while Manulife Financial lost 27 cents, or 1.2%, to $22.77.

Utilities led gainers, Hydro One picking up 17 cents to $23.71, while Fortis Inc. popped one dollar, or 2.3%, to $43.65.

Among consumer staples, Premium Brands International grew 83 cents, or 1%, to $82.03, while Maple Leaf Foods acquired 18 cents to $31.85.

In the telecom sector, BCE rocketed 75 cents, or 1.3%, to $58.75.

ON BAYSTREET

The TSX Venture Exchange made back some ground, but still finished negative 3.44 points to 800.92

Seven of the 12 TSX subgroups moved higher by the closing bell, most notably, utilities, ahead 0.9%, consumer staples, galloping 0.8%, and telecoms, up 0.6%.

The five laggards were weighed most by health-care, skidding 1.2%, while gold and financials each sagged 0.3%.

ON WALLSTREET

U.S. equities closed mixed on Wednesday as Wall Street eagerly awaited a vote on the House's health-care proposal and monitored oil prices.

The Dow Jones Industrials remained negative 6.64 points to 20,661.37, with Nike and Goldman Sachs contributing the most losses.

Nike's stock declined 7% on the back of mixed quarterly results. Microsoft proved the top advancer.

The S&P 500 moved up 4.43 points to 2,348.45, with information technology leading five sectors lower and telecommunications lagging.

The NASDAQ strengthened 27.82 points to 5,821.64

In corporate news, shares of Sears tumbled more than 10% after a filing by the Securities and Exchange Commission raised questions about the company's future. "Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company's ability to continue as a going concern," Sears said in the filing.

Stocks suffered their worst day of the year Tuesday — in part — because of fears that a prolonged battle in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare could delay tax reform, deregulation and government spending.

The House is expected to vote on the Republican health-care bill on Thursday, but Obamacare's replacement has seen pressure not just from Democrats, but from some conservative GOP members as well.

In economic news, existing home sales data for February showed a decline of 3.7%.

Also on investors' minds were oil prices, which continued falling after of the Energy Information Administration said U.S. inventories rose by five million barrels last week. U.S. crude futures for May delivery fell 1.8% to lows not seen since November.

Prices for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note gained, lowering yields to 2.4% from Tuesday’s 2.42%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices stayed lower seven cents to $47.17 U.S. a barrel

Gold prices gained $1.50 to $1,248.00 U.S. an ounce.