Thursday, January 17, 2013 00:28 PM EST Toronto stronger by noon Sun Life deal in vogue The Toronto stock market was building momentum midday Thursday amid rising commodity prices and positive U.S. economic data. The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 48.70 points to greet noon at 12,657.52 The Canadian dollar inched higher by 0.05 cents to 101.49 cents U.S. Sun Life Financial Inc. and the Malaysian state investment company are teaming up to purchase 98% of a Malaysian life insurance company. Sun Life and Khazanah Nasional are purchasing the CIMB Aviva Assurance life insurance company as well as CIMB Aviva Takaful for a total shared cost of $586 million. Sun Life shares gained nine cents to $28.03. H&R Real Estate Investment Trust plans to acquire Primaris Retail REIT in a cash and stock deal valued at some $2.8 billion. Primaris owns 35 properties across Canada, including shopping centres in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario comprising some 14.7 million square feet. H&R units lost 79 cents to $23 while Primaris units dipped a penny to $26.50. The base metals sector advanced as March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose five cents to $3.65 U.S. a pound. First Quantum Minerals rose 24 cents to $21.15. The tech sector gained with CGI Group ahead 25 cents to $24.41. Telecoms were generally higher with BCE Inc. up 16 cents to $42.82. Among energy issues, Canadian Natural Resources advanced 22 cents to $28.96. Prices were also supported by an attack on a natural gas plant deep in the Sahara desert in Algeria. Islamist militants are holding dozens of hostages. In the gold sector, Barrick Gold Corp. faded 64 cents to $33.05. On the economic beat, Statistics Canada revealed this morning that our investment in foreign securities improved to $7.8 billion in November, nearly all in U.S. instruments. The nation’s number-crunchers also said that foreign investment in Canadian securities eased to $5.6 billion, mainly federal government debt instruments. Nevertheless, the average monthly foreign investment in Canadian securities still stands well above that of Canadian investment in foreign securities since 2009. ON BAYSTREET The TSX Venture Exchange staggered 0.94 points to 1,229.26 All but one of the 14 Toronto subgroups were in the green by noon hour. Information technology soared 1.2%, while consumer discretionaries jumped 0.9%, and health-care issues were 0.8% to the good. The lone holdout was gold, fading 0.4%. ON WALLSTREET U.S. stocks gained Thursday as upbeat reports on the economy offset mixed corporate results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hiked 79.68 points to pause for lunch at 13,590.90 The S&P 500 was positive 7.10 points to 1,479.73. The Nasdaq Composite moved up 18.15 points to 3,135.69 Shares of residential construction companies rallied, with Hovnanian, Pulte Group and DR Horton up. Boeing's problems continued to deepen, after regulators in Europe, India and Japan joined the Federal Aviation Administration after it grounded all Dreamliner planes. They cited worries about onboard lithium-ion batteries that have twice caught fire recently. Bank of America posted fourth-quarter earnings that fell from a year earlier but topped forecasts. The bank's results included a number of mortgage-related charges. Citigroup reported profits that missed expectations, partly due to high legal costs amounting to $1.3 billion U.S. BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, reported better-than-expected earnings. American Express, Capital One and Intel will report results after the closing bell. Shares of Herbalife fell after the vitamin supplement company said it would likely incur temporary expenses relate to "recent events." Activist investor Bill Ackman, who runs the $11-billion U.S. hedge fund Pershing Square, has called Herbalife a pyramid scheme and publicly said that he's betting $1 billion U.S. that its stock will fall to zero. On the other side is Dan Loeb, who runs Third Point. He's taken an 8% stake in Herbalife and says Ackman's claims are preposterous. CBS shares jumped after the company announced it would take its American outdoor division, which runs billboards, and convert it into a real estate investment trust. It's planning to outright sell its European and Asian outdoor operations. Mining giant Rio Tinto replaced its CEO after taking a $14-billion U.S. writedown on its aluminum and coal businesses. Overall, S&P 500 companies are expected to report earnings growth of 3.2% for the last three months of 2012, according to S&P's Capital IQ. Before the market opened, the government reported a five-year low for weekly jobless claims in the latest week. The pace of home building surged in December, as the market bounced back from the impact of Superstorm Sandy. The U.S. Census Bureau said housing starts increased 12.1% over the previous month. Applications for new building permits, considered a leading indicator, jumped 28.8% from last year's level. Prices on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note sank, raising yields to 1.87% from Wednesday’s 1.82%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions. Oil prices added $1.06 to $95.30 U.S. a barrel. Gold prices rallied $6.20 to $1,689.40 U.S. an ounce.