TSX falls as China worries weigh on commodity prices

Energy companies and miners helped push the Toronto stock market lower Tuesday morning as investors looked for direction amid a dearth of market-moving corporate and economic news.The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 8.87 points to 14,293.19 with the gold sector the prime source of strength.The Canadian dollar rose 0.03 of a cent to 90.11 cents US.New York’s Dow Jones industrials were down 2.66 points to 16,416.02, the Nasdaq gained 5.84 points to 4,340.29 while the S&P 500 index lost 0.26 of a point to 1,876.91.Mining stocks on the TSX advanced after losing ground Monday amid concerns about Chinese growth as data showed that exports of the world’s second biggest economy fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February. The country’s official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent.Copper prices and TSX base metal stocks in particular headed lower as a result of the data with the metal widely viewed as a proxy for the global economy closing at a multi-year low. On Tuesday, the May copper contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was unchanged at US$3.04 a pound after shedding six per cent over the last two sessions and the base metals sector shed early gains to lose 0.2 per cent.Oil prices also suffered from the Chinese data and on Tuesday, the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down a further 48 cents to US$100.64 a barrel and the energy sector moved down 0.4 per cent.The TSX gold sector was up 1.5 per cent as April bullion gained $7.80 to US$1,349.30 an ounce.On the corporate front, Canadian Pacific Railway will repurchase up to 5.27 million or three per cent of its shares over the next year. Walter Spracklin of RBC Capital Markets said the repurchase program is earlier and larger than the 4.4 million shares he had expected and CP shares declined $1.12 to $170.19.Fortress Paper Ltd. (TSX:FTP) plunged 15.4 per cent to $2.75 as the company posted a quarterly loss of $54.7-million or $3.76 a share as it wrote down the value of property, plant and equipment at a Quebec cellulose mill. Ex-items, Fortress had an adjusted net loss of $21.2 million or $1.46 per share in the quarter, compared with a loss of $11.2 million or 77 cents per share a year earlier. Its revenue dropped to $37.2 million from $58.7 million a year before.Printer Transcontinental Inc. (TSX:TCL.A) says adjusted operating earnings remained stable at $43.5 million for the first quarter as revenues fell five per cent due to weakness in the advertising market. Transcontinental also announced it will acquire Capri Packaging, a Missouri supplier of printed flexible packaging, for US$133 million. Its shares were down three cents to $15.01.Canadian exporters are also watching developments in Vancouver where a strike by container-truck drivers serving Port of Metro Vancouver terminals is growing. Members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association parked their rigs Monday, joining members of the non-union United Truckers Association who have been on strike since last month. The groups reached a tentative deal with employers last week, but the members voted against the agreement over the weekend. read more

Low food prices foreseen in 20172026 but countries need to keep markets

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-OECD Agricultural Outlook 2017-2026 projections, per capita demand for food staples may not rise (except in least developed countries), growth in demand for meat may slow, and additional calories and protein consumption could come mainly from vegetable oil, sugar and dairy products. Furthermore, with estimates that by 2026, the average calorie availability could reach 2,450 kilo-calorie (kcal) per person per day in least developed countries and exceed 3,000 kcal in other developing countries, food insecurity and malnutrition would still remain a persistent global problem, requiring a coordinated international approach, noted the Outlook. “Food alone is not enough to eliminate undernourishment and other forms of malnutrition,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, at the launch of the report. “Access to the additional calories is extremely important. More challenging is the fight against malnutrition: Fighting malnutrition requires a diversified, safe and nutritious diet, ideally produced with a lower environmental footprint,” he added. The report also points to potential higher crop yields. For instance, up to 90 per cent of the increase in maize production is expected from increased yields and just 10 per cent from expansion of area under cultivation. Similarly, yield gains are projected to account for 85 per cent of the increase in wheat production. Additionally, growth in meat and dairy production is expected to come from both larger herds and higher output per-animal and it is foreseen that aquaculture would dominate growth in the fish sector and farmed fish production will be the fastest-growing protein source among all commodities analysed in the Outlook. Continued vigilance needed on part of governmentsThe Outlook, however, also calls on all countries to remain vigilant to shocks and instability. “As we have seen in the past, unexpected events can easily take markets away from these central trends, so it is essential that governments continue joint efforts to provide stability to world food markets,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at the launch. “It is equally important that we look ahead as we seek to meet the fundamental challenge facing world food and agriculture: to ensure access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food for a growing world population, while at the same time using natural resources more sustainably and making an effective contribution to mitigating climate change,” he added. The focus of this edition of the Agricultural Outlook is the south-east Asian region. The region has seen strong economic growth and rapid development in agriculture and fishery sectors, which the report notes, has enabled it to significantly reduce undernourishment in recent years. However, the growth of agriculture and fisheries, in particular in the export-oriented fish and palm oil sectors, has led to rising pressure on natural resources. Improved resource management and increased research and development will, therefore, be needed to achieve sustainable productivity growth across the sectors and, given the region’s sensitivity to climate change, investments will be required to facilitate adaption, highlighted the report. read more