TSX Wall Street head higher as markets await Scotland referendum

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market headed higher Thursday, as Scotland heads to the polls in a referendum vote that has the potential to send ripples across global markets.The S&P/TSX composite index jumped 14.42 points to 15,473.30. The Canadian dollar found strength, jumping 0.34 of a cent to 91.22 cents US.Scots will be deciding whether they want their country to leave the United Kingdom, with the referendum results expected early Friday before markets open in North America. Polls have said the results are too close to call.Traders expect that if Scotland stays as part of the U.K. it would remove a lot of the uncertainty that has developed on equity markets and has helped drive up the value of the U.S. dollar. Some traders have suggested a vote to leave Scotland could put a damper on the global economic recovery.On Wall Street, markets headed higher with the Dow Jones industrials ahead 59.99 points to 17,216.84, after closing at a record high on Wednesday. The Nasdaq was up 21.21 at 4,583.40, and the S&P 500 index advanced 6.88 points to 2,008.45.The U.S. markets got a boost after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled Wednesday that it still plans on keeping its key interest rate at a record low “for a considerable time,” as long as inflation remains under control. The central bank said it will keep its benchmark rate near zero until it sees consistent growth in wages and in the job market.The Fed also said it will make another $10-billion cut in the pace of its monthly bond purchases, which have fuelled stock markets and kept long-term borrowing rates low. The program is still slated to end in October.Overseas, the European Central Bank has launched a new stimulus program in hopes of getting banks to lend, an effort to revive a stalling economy. On Thursday, the ECB for the 18-country eurozone handed out 82.6 billion euros (US$107 billion) in ultra-low interest loans to 255 banks.In corporate news, Penn West Petroleum reported a net income for the second quarter of $143 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $53 million, or a loss of 11 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.The oil and gas producer had delayed its second-quarter earnings due to the restatement of past financial reports after finding some accounting irregularities. Penn West shares were more than eight% higher, or 64 cents, to $8.37.Air Canada said it will begin to charge a $25 fee for first checked bags on domestic flights. The fee applies to passengers booking the lowest economy class Tango fares, as of Thursday for flights as of Nov. 2. Shares in Air Canada rose 30 cents to $8.92.Earlier this week, WestJet announced it would begin charges for a traveller’s first checked bag. WestJet shares were up 10 cents to $33.15.On the commodity markets, December bullion was down $14.60 to US$1,221.30 an ounce. Gold stocks were the heaviest weight on the TSX at the open, with the sector coming in as the largest decliner, down by 1.33%.The October crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 20 cents to US$94.22 a barrel, while December copper was down four cents to US$3.11 a pound. read more