Stocks in Canada's largest market advanced on Thursday, on receding fears of a trade war with the United States after President Donald Trump promised flexibility in dealing with the country's "real friends."
The S&P/TSX Composite Index gathered 40.59 points – off its highs of the morning -- to reach noon Thursday at 15,513.20
The Canadian dollar dropped 0.13 cents to 77.35 cents U.S.
In corporate news, WeedMD and Phivida have entered into a joint venture for cannabis-infused beverages. The new joint venture company, Cannabis Beverages Inc., will operate one of the first cannabis-infused beverage production facilities in Canada.
The joint venture partnership will focus on manufacturing, marketing and distribution of cannabinoid-infused beverages for the medical and future adult-use cannabis markets.
WeedMD shares reached noon at $1.96, down five cents from Wednesday, while Phivida gained a penny at $1.61 a share.
Shares of trade-sensitive auto parts and railroad companies recovered. Magna International advanced 0.5% to $67.96 and Canadian National Railway was up 0.3% at $94.35.
Machine manufacturer Linamar and packing tape-maker Intertape Polymar Group were the biggest gainers on the index, rising 7.6% and 7.2% respectively, after reporting fourth-quarter profits that beat expectations.
The healthcare group was the sector with the most gains.
Cominar REIT was the biggest decliner on the index, falling 5.5% after reporting a drop in its quarterly operating revenue.
Mining companies Ivanhoe Mines, Franco-Nevada Corp and Paramount Resources were also among the biggest decliners, hit by a retreat in metal prices.
Copper futures pulled back 1.6% to $6,836.50 a tonne.
Cominar was also the most actively traded stock on the index, followed by marijuana producers Canopy Growth and Aphria Inc.
Statistics Canada reported that Canadian municipalities issued $8.4 billion in building permits in January, up 5.6% following a 2.5% rise in December, due mostly to higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings in Ontario.
The agency also reported that new house prices were unchanged for a second consecutive month.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said the trend in housing starts was 225,276 units in February, compared to 224,572 units in January.
The White House said Wednesday U.S. President Donald Trump plans to offer Canada and Mexico a 30-day exemption from planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which could be extended based on progress in North American Free Trade Agreement talks
About 5% of Vancouver homes stood empty or underutilized in a city grappling with skyrocketing home prices and soaring rents, according to data released on Wednesday, making their owners subject to a so-called empty home tax.
The TSX Venture Exchange settled into the red 1.12 points to 830.82
Eight of the 12 TSX subgroups remained positive by noon hour, with information technology up 1.9%, industrials ahead 0.7%, and health-care better by 0.6%.
The four laggards were led mostly by materials, down 1.2%, gold, off 0.8%, and energy, sliding 0.4%.
Stocks traded higher on Thursday amid hopes that the U.S. will exempt Canada and Mexico from proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum
The Dow Jones Industrials broke for lunch Thursday down 80.34 points to 24,721.02, with Johnson & Johnson as the best-performing stocks in the index.
The S&P 500 dropped 2.94 points to 2,723.86, with utilities as the best-performing sector.
The NASDAQ composite Index held onto gains of 4.81 points to 7,401.46
In corporate news, Cigna announced it plans to buy Express Scripts for $67 billion in a cash-and-stock deal. Cigna would find a new partner in Express Scripts, after antitrust regulators last year denied a Cigna and Anthem combination as anti-competitive. Express Scripts shares rose more than 10% on the news.
In economic news, weekly jobless claims in the States increased by 21,000 to 231,000 last week, bouncing back from a 48-year low.
Investors also looked ahead to the release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report.
President Trump is expected to make an announcement regarding the tariffs Thursday afternoon.
Thursday morning, Trump tweeted: "Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House. We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military."
However, media outlets reported that the details of the announcement are still being finalized and that a proclamation signed by Trump could be largely "symbolic."
Prices for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note got stronger, lowering yields to 2.85% from Wednesday's 2.88%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil prices gave back 87 cents a barrel to $60.28 U.S.
Gold prices diminished $6.20 at $1,321.40 U.S. an ounce.