Closing Bell TSX ends lower amid earnings misses slowing Chinese economy

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was lower Wednesday, weighed down by some earnings misses and falling mining stocks amid data that showed a deepening slowdown in China’s manufacturing sector.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,672.30 -73.08 -0.57%S&P 500 — 1,685.94 -6.45 -0.38%Dow — 15,542.24 -25.50 -0.16%Nasdaq — 3,579.60 +0.33 0.01%The S&P/TSX composite index was down 73.08 points to 12,672.3 as gold stocks gave up a chunk of the gains racked up during July.The Canadian dollar shed early gains and dipped 0.29 of a cent against the U.S. dollar to 96.94 cents US. The greenback strengthened in the wake of positive news on new home sales along with a higher reading from financial information company Markit which reported its July flash purchasing managers’ index for the U.S. manufacturing sector rose to 53.2, the highest it’s been in four months.U.S. indexes were lower amid strong earnings reports from the likes of Apple Inc. and Ford Motor Co.A weak report from heavy equipment maker Caterpillar helped push the Dow Jones industrials down 25.5 points to 15,542.24, the Nasdaq added 0.33 of a point to 3,579.6 and the S&P 500 index was off 6.45 points to 1,685.94.Meanwhile, in Canada, Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) had $255 million or 34 cents per share in operating earnings and a $179-million net profit in the second quarter. The operating earnings were below a consensus estimate of 48 cents. Its shares fell $1.76 to $30.49.Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) posted net income for the second-quarter of $252 million, or $1.43 per diluted share, versus $103 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier. The earnings missed estimates and its stock dropped 2.1% to $127.44.But the stock was off session lows as the railroad’s operating ratio, which is a key measure of how efficiently railways operate, improved to 71.9% in the second quarter, an all-time record for the railroad.“(CEO) Hunter Harrison has actually delivered,” said Chris King, portfolio manager at Morgan, Meighen and Associates. “For him to move it down to that level, man that tells you he is the god of railways.”On a more positive note, Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) shares were ahead 72 cents to $41.95 as the company reported $497 million in quarterly adjusted net income, a 4% increase from last year and better than analysts’ consensus estimate of $491.95 million.Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) made $178 million in net earnings in the second quarter, up from $156 million in the same period a year ago. The grocer’s basic net earnings per common share rose 14.5% in the quarter to 63 cents, about five cents per share better than a consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters and its shares advanced $1.52 to $49.46.In the U.S., Facebook stock soared 17% in after-hours trading to US$30.56 as the social networking company posted earnings and revenue after the close that beat expectations.Quarterly earnings at Caterpillar fell 43% $960 million, or $1.45 per share and the company cut its profit and revenue outlook for the year. Analysts had expected a profit of $1.69 per share and its shares dropped $2.08 to US$83.44.The TSX base metals sector fell 2.26% amid weak Chinese manufacturing data while metal prices declined with September copper down two cents to US$3.18 a pound. An HSBC survey showed China’s manufacturing at an 11-month low this month. HSBC said the preliminary version of its monthly purchasing managers index declined to 47.7 this month from June’s 48.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 show a contraction in activity.The gold sector was down about 4.6% while August bullion declined $15 to US$1,319.70 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded $1.45 to C$29.24 and Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) fell $1.01 to $17.67.The energy sector dropped 1.64% and the September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down $1.84 to US$105.39 a barrel as traders weighed the Chinese manufacturing data against a slightly bigger than expected drop in U.S. crude inventories. Energy Department data showed supplies dropped by 2.8 million barrels last week, against the 2.6 million barrel drop that had been expected.Other economic news showed that Americans snapped up new homes in June at the fastest pace in five years. The Commerce Department says sales rose 8.3% to a seasonally adjusted pace of 497,000. That’s up from 459,000 in May, which was revised lower.In other corporate developments, Bombardier Aerospace says the first flight of its new CSeries commercial jet will occur in the coming weeks, without giving a specific date. The Montreal-based company had been aiming for the first flight by the end of July. Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) shares lost six cents to $5.01.WHAT’S ON DECK TUESDAYECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m. — Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Earnings (May)UNITED STATES8:30 a.m. — Initial jobless claims (week of July 20)8:30 a.m. — Durable Goods Orders (June)CORPORATE NEWSUNITED STATESGeneral Motors earningsStarbucks CorpCANADAPotash Corp earningsGoldcorp Inc earningsHusky Energy Inc earningsIMAX Corp earningsZynga Inc read more

FEATURE Despite constraints UN agency delivers for Palestinian refugees in wartorn Syria

The Middle Eastern country is host to some half a million Palestinian refugees, who have lived there for decades after fleeing their homes in the aftermath of the 1948 war. It is estimated that all of them are now directly caught up in the conflict that has raged in the country for more than two years.Prior to March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad began, Palestinian refugees were already among the poorest communities in Syria, with 27 per cent of the population estimated to be living below the poverty line – $2 per day – and over 12 per cent unable to meet their basic food needs.“Before the crisis, we were providing social protection to Palestinian refugees classified as poor,” said an UNRWA staffer who works on relief and social services issues in Syria. “We were providing subsidies and relief assistance to poor refugees and we were leading development initiatives aiming at reducing poverty and addressing the problems of vulnerable groups,” she said in a recent interview with the UN News Centre.The conflict has affected humanitarian access and disrupted education and health services, exacerbating stress and uncertainty in refugee communities, according to UNRWA, which has provided basic services, and at times emergency assistance, to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza for over 63 years. In Syria, the Agency has reported that increasing numbers of Palestinian refugees are being killed, injured or displaced amid the intensifying violence in the country, where more than 70,000 civilians have already lost their lives since the conflict began.In early March, five Palestinian children were among the casualties when they were caught by incoming gunfire and shelling. The previous month, 12 Palestinian refugees were killed by heavy weaponry in the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk; five of them were members of the same family.UNRWA has cautioned that the Palestinian refugees are unable to move around safely and face severe restrictions owing to escalating threats from shelling and armed clashes, exacerbating vulnerabilities that existed prior to the Syrian conflict.From development assistance to emergency aidThe conflict has changed the way UNRWA staff work, particularly as the Agency’s tasks have evolved from providing regular services – ranging from education to health needs – to delivering emergency assistance such as distributing cash, food and medical supplies.Amid the escalating conflict and numerous operational challenges, UNRWA has been working to keep schools, clinics and food distribution centres open. Its 3,600 staff inside Syria, who live and work among refugee communities, are equally affected by the conflict. Struggling to meet the critical needs of those they serve, they do so often under circumstances of significant personal risk, including kidnappings, disappearances and car-jackings.The way UNRWA staff work has “completely changed,” said a staffer from Homs. “We shifted immediately to emergency response.” She recalled that before the conflict, staff would begin the day by carrying out the Agency’s regular services.Currently, however, one of the most important tasks is to ensure the safety of staff, which means starting the day by reviewing the security situation, advising staff on their movements and on whether to stay indoors or to come to their offices. “The biggest challenge is that we don’t have communications in Homs – mobiles, Internet, landlines – so this is an example of how our life has changed,” she stated.The conflict has led the Agency to explore new and more creative ways to distribute its assistance. For example, UNRWA provides some refugees with ATM cards to enable them to go and withdraw their assistance from private banks in safer areas, when it becomes too dangerous to go to one of the Agency’s offices.Staff members also send refugees text messages informing them of the timing and locations of ATM card and food distributions, and cooperate with other partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food assistance in areas experiencing armed violence.The Agency operates in an increasingly challenging environment, in which staff face threats on a daily basis. Communications are regularly constrained by Internet and phone outages, further adding to the operational challenges. Inter-city mobile phone connections as well as international landlines are also down sometimes.Education in particular has been disrupted since most UNRWA schools have been deemed unsafe because they are in areas that are too dangerous, have been damaged in the fighting or are accommodating internally displaced persons (IDPs). There are some 8,400 IDPs sheltering in 21 UNRWA-managed facilities in Syria, as of 29 May, of which 87 per cent are Palestinian refugees. The Agency reported that increasing numbers of refugees are seeking shelter at UNRWA facilities and refugee camps in Hama, Homs, Aleppo city and Latakia.Meanwhile, 10 out of 23 health centres were closed last week, including eight in Damascus. Several health centres are compelled to reduce their hours of operation due to inaccessibility for staff and patients alike.  Constrained by funding shortageThe efforts of UNRWA staff have also been constrained by a shortage of funds, which have not kept pace with the needs of the refugees which have grown exponentially over the course of the conflict.“They need more and we are not able to meet their minimum needs,” said another staffer from Damascus. “We are working all the time, and I’m sure that the concerned are working seriously on fundraising and meeting refugees’ needs, but there are half a million refugees in need for help and our resources are very limited.”Addressing a humanitarian forum in February, UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi highlighted the vulnerability of the Palestinian community in Syria and called on all donors to honour the pledges they made to assist the Agency. Total budget for January to June 2013Of the $1.5 billion UN-wide humanitarian appeal for Syria issued in January, $90 million was for UNRWA’s relief efforts over the first six months of the year. To date, the Agency – which is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States – has received some $78 million. Another key problem is that, unlike Syrian nationals, the Palestinian refugees are limited in their options to flee the country owing to their status. The UN estimates that over 1.5 million people have fled the escalating violence in Syria and taken refuge in neighbouring countries. According to UNRWA, this includes some 63,200 Palestinian refugees who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan. Thousands more have fled to Turkey and Iraq.“It’s not easy for the Palestinian refugees to flee,” said one staffer. “There are movement restrictions with regard to Palestinian movement [outside the country]. The only open border, for the time being, is Lebanon. read more