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Market News: After the Bell
 
Stocks advance (RTGAM)
 
 
  North American stocks rose Monday amid falling oil prices and stronger revenue outlooks from software makers Siebel Systems Inc. and PeopleSoft Inc.

Shares of ACE Aviation Holdings Inc., which operates Air Canada, surged on their first day of trading, climbing 24 per cent.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 65.82 points or 0.75 per cent to 8,812.91, led by Nortel Networks Corp. and Research In Motion Inc. Rising stocks outnumbered decliners by a narrow 129 to 92.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 23.89 points or 0.23 per cent to 10,216.54 while the S&P 500 rose 3.67 points or 0.32 per cent to 1,135.17. The tech-laden Nasdaq composite rose 10.20 points or 0.53 per cent to 1,952.40.

Lower oil prices helped set the positive tone for the day. In New York, light, sweet crude futures — West Texas Intermediate — for November delivery slipped 21 cents (U.S.) or 0.40 per cent at $49.91, helped by easing tensions in Nigeria after rebels dropped threats to pinpoint oil facilities.

On Friday, oil closed above $50 for the first time.

On its first day of trading, ACE Aviation's B class shares closed at $24.80, up $4.80 from the stock's face price. More than 1.3 million shares changed. The company's restricted voting shares rose to $24.76 on trading of 2.6 million shares. Montreal-based Air Canada emerged from 18 months of bankruptcy protection on Thursday Sept. 30 with a revised strategy of using new smaller regional jets in the domestic market while expanding international routes.

During the restructuring, the carrier pared its debt from $12-billion to $5-billion, and achieved $1-billion in labour savings and productivity improvements, emerging with $1.9-billion in cash.

International Forest Products Ltd. emerged Monday as a white knight for British Columbia's Riverside Forest Products Ltd. in a $368-million deal that creates the world's seventh biggest lumber company.

The bid trumps an earlier hostile offer from Riverside's B.C. rival Tolko Industries Ltd., which in August launched an unsolicited bid for the company. Riverside climbed $3.55 or 10 per cent to $38.75 while Interfor slipped 8 cents to $8.10.

PeopleSoft shares slipped 63 cents to $22.20 after earlier rising more than 12 per cent. The company said it expects increased third-quarter net income and revenue as new customers, an increased average selling price and strong performance in North America and Europe fuelled the expected improvement over year-earlier result.

Siebel Systems said Monday that it expected to top Wall Street's revenue estimates for the third quarter and added that it was comfortable with fourth-quarter Wall Street estimates.

The software maker expects revenue to be between $315-million and $317-million for the third quarter, topping analysts' estimates of $306-million, according to Thomson First Call. The stock rose $1.15 or 14.04 per cent to $9.34.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. gained 18 cents to $53.31 even after the retailing behemoth said over the weekend that September same-store sales rose 2.3 per cent, near the low end of forecasts.

“While hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne did not significantly drag down the company's top line for the month and back-to-school sales picked up earlier in the month, we note that the environment for discount retailers is still difficult,” CIBC World Markets analyst Peter Benedict said in a report, noting that consumers faced high oil and gas prices during the month.

In Canada, the loonie — which jumped 1 per cent last week — pulled back somewhat on Monday, trading at 78.83 cents (U.S.), down from Friday's close of 79.21 cents.

“So far in 2004, the Canadian dollar has carved out a massive U-shape, falling almost continuously until mid-May, and then strengthening almost continuously since then,” BMO Nesbitt Burns senior economist Douglas Porter said.

“What has changed since May? That just happens to be the very period that doubts over the strength of the U.S. economy first began to arise, and when oil prices first moved toward the $40 level.”

With files from Terry Weber

 


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