TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was flat Tuesday afternoon as traders coped with heightened uncertainty over whether a new Italian government will follow through on crucial financial reforms to deal with that country’s huge debt.The S&P/TSX composite index edged two points lower to 12,648.87, led by higher gold stocks as bullion prices surged on worries about Italy and remarks about the future of economic stimulus by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.The TSX Venture Exchange dipped 9.34 points to 1,131.66.The TSX found some support from the financial sector after Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) said Tuesday that its net income slipped to $1.05-billion or $1.53 per share from $1.12-billion or $1.63 per share a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, earnings were $1.52, beating analyst expectations by four cents.The initial results of the Italian election showed voters were fed up with the austerity measures enacted by the previous technocratic government led by Mario Monti, who was brought in to deal with the country’s huge debt levels.But voter anger against the Monti government was channelled through several outlets. The centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani appears to have won a narrow victory in the lower house of parliament while the Senate looks split with no party in control.“We expect risky assets to remain under pressure until the picture in Italy becomes clearer,” said a commentary from Barclays Research.The Canadian dollar was little changed after six days of losses that have brought the loonie to its lowest levels since late last June. The currency was up 0.03 of a cent at 97.34 cents US.U.S. indexes were higher amid a strong earnings report from Home Depot and positive news from the housing sector.The Dow Jones industrials was up 101.2 points at 13,885.37, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 10.53 points to 3,126.78 and the S&P 500 index climbed 6.8 points to 1,494.65.Home Depot’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income surged 32% to $1.02-billion, or 68 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 64 cents per share and its shares ran ahead 5.66% to US$67.54.Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed that American home prices rose 6.8% in December compared with the same month a year ago. That’s up from a 5.5% annual gain in November.Other data showed that U.S. new-home sales jumped nearly 16% in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008.Italy’s FTSE MIB index was the worst-performing index in Europe, closing trading 4.89% lower, having earlier been nearly five% down at one point Tuesday.The interest rate on the country’s benchmark 10-year bond — an important gauge of investor sentiment — rose by 0.38 percentage points to 4.83%.Traders have good reason to be nervous about how Italy deals with its finances. Though its budget deficit is fairly small compared with other euro countries at three% of annual gross domestic product, its overall debt stands at a huge (euro)2 trillion.Last July, concerns over the country’s ability to pay down its debt and the stability of the wider eurozone sent the interest rate on its 10-year bonds to 6.36%.“Basically, Italy is going to struggle here,” said John Johnston, chief strategist at Davis Rea Ltd.“Italy’s ability to service its debt long term is incredibly, badly impaired by its lack of growth and the lack of growth needs reforms and the kind of political environment in Italy right now is not constructive for reforms.”New York also found support from comments by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke which signalled that the Fed’s efforts to keep borrowing costs low will continue.Bernanke acknowledged that the Fed’s aggressive program to buy US$85 billion a month in bonds to keep rates low could eventually ignite inflation or unsettle investors. Several Fed policy-makers said at their most recent meeting that the Fed might have to scale back its bond purchases because of those risks.But Bernanke said the risks remained contained for now.The TSX gold sector led advancers, up 1.5% as Bernanke’s remarks and the uncertainty over Italy pushed the April bullion contract $28.90 higher to US$1,615.50 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) rose 83 cents to C$34.47.The metals and mining sector was slightly higher at 0.2% while March copper was up two cents at US$3.57 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) rose 30 cents to C$18.71.The energy sector fell 0.62% as the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 74 cents to US$92.37 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) slipped 41 cents to C$30.96.The information technology sector led decliners, down 0.9% as CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) fell 44 cents to $26.51 while Wi-Lan Inc. (TSX:WIN) dropped 11 cents to $4.31.In other earnings news, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX: MFI) said net income attributable to common shareholders was $54.6-million or 38 cents per diluted share in the three months ended Dec. 31, up from $8.4-million or six cents per diluted share in the same 2011 quarter. Revenue fell slightly to $1.2-billion from $1.24-billion and its shares were up 46 cents to $13.64. read more

“You placed your trust in me as the President of the SLFP. The people placed their trust in me as the common candidate at the Presidential Election in 2015. I did not take the chairmanship of the SLFP by force. The central committee of the party invited me. In the last two years, I succeeded in gradually transforming it to a pure democratic party and I thank the senior leaders who extended support to me in this endeavor,” he said. The President also said that an intelligent, knowledgeable, able, creative and skilled workforce is needed to develop a country.The Government has declared as a policy to introduce 84 days of maternity leave which is currently given to public servants should also be extended to the private sector as well as female shop employees, the President said. (Colombo Gazette) He said that as the trade union leaders pointed out the working class received many benefits and privileges during the last two years and added that the SLFP is a political party that always listen to the genuine demands of the workers as a party that represents the working class of the this country. “The SLFP policy is to strengthen indigenous producers, workers, peasants, fishermen and other sections of the working class,” he said.Emphasizing on the need for communal amity and harmony, President Sirisena said “We cannot build a peaceful country by suppressing other communities.If somebody thinks about his own community, forgetting the other communities, this country cannot be built as a prosperous and peaceful country. How much of our unique Sri Lankan feeling was beautifully displayed in the 1940s when we fought for independence? Our Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim leaders fought against the British rule and won the freedom with unity with each other. But after that they separated for power”. President Maithripala Sirisena said the largely attended and successful Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) May Day rally in Kandy is a boost to the victorious forward march of the SLFP-led leftist progressive forces in the country.He vowed to transform the SLFP into a pure, corrupt-free, progressive and democratic political force. He pointed out that in the past the SLFP was burdened with corruption and malpractices. read more