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S&P/TSX composite moves further into record territory despite energy pullback

TORONTO — Canada's main stock market moved further into record territory Monday despite a relatively quiet day marked by a pullback in the key energy sector.
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TORONTO — Canada's main stock market moved further into record territory Monday despite a relatively quiet day marked by a pullback in the key energy sector.

There was "little conviction" overall in equity markets to start the trading week even as investors are focused on earnings season, which has started very strongly, said Craig Fehr, investment strategist, Edward Jones.

"While that led to a positive week last week, we're seeing some consolidation today. But I would say broadly it's a positive trend when we're going to see equities pivot their sights toward corporate profits because that continues to be probably the brightest element of the fundamental backdrop at the moment," he said in an interview.

Fehr said there's a lot more occurring beneath the surface with a rebound in communications and technology that favours the S&P 500 and Nasdaq over the Dow.

"The TSX has been on a roll," he said pointing to the heavyweight financials services sector that has benefited from the prospects of higher rates and faster loan growth.

"But at the same time, obviously the tear that oil has been on has benefited energy stocks, and so that's where we've seen some divergences between the Canadian stock market and the U.S. market."

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 57.27 points to a high of the day at 20,985.37.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 36.15 points at 35,258.61. The S&P 500 index was up 15.09 points at 4,486.46, while the Nasdaq composite was up 124.47 points at 15,021.81.

Technology and industrials led while energy and health care were the biggest laggards on the day.

Technology rose 1.1 per cent with shares of Shopify Inc. increasing 2.9 per cent.

Industrials increased 0.7 per cent with TFI International Inc. and WSP Global Inc. each up about 1.9 per cent.

Energy lost 1.2 per cent on a dip in crude oil prices and a big loss in natural gas prices.

Fehr said the sector's performance Monday reflected investors catching their breath after a spectacular run so far in 2021 in which crude oil has surged 68 per cent.

"To see them take a breather today is not particularly surprising given the run they've been on."

Crude's strong movement reflects the outlook for robust demand and the challenges of meeting that with adequate supplies.

The December crude contract was down four cents at US$81.69 per barrel and the November natural gas contract was down 42.1 cents at US$4.99 per mmBTU.

Shares of Birchcliff Energy Ltd. were down 3.2 per cent, followed by Tourmaline Oil Corp. and MEG Energy Corp. at 2.9 and 2.6 per cent, respectively.

The Canadian dollar traded for 80.78 US, unchanged from Friday.

Materials was also lower on a dip in metals prices as New Gold Inc. fell 4.1 per cent.

The December gold contract was down US$2.60 at US$1,765.70 an ounce and the December copper contract was down four tenths of a cent at nearly US$4.73 a pound.

The backdrop to Monday's stock market results was a slowing of the Chinese economy.

Gross domestic product grew 4.9 per cent in the July to September period from a year earlier. That was the weakest growth since the third quarter of 2020.

While disappointing, the trend isn't surprising given that world's second-largest economy is becoming more consumption based and less investment focused, said Fehr.

The growth rate will likely outpace developed markets but be slower than investors have come to expect over the last 20 to 30 years.

Fehr said the bigger question for markets is whether Chinese policy-makers will come to the rescue as they have done in the last two to three decades.

"We will probably see a little bit more from the People's Bank of China on the monetary side, but I think broadly this is a reflection of the fact that stimulus isn't coming immediately to the rescue, as has been the case in prior years."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BIR, TSX:TOU, TSX:MEG, TSX:SHOP, TSX:TFII, TSX:WSP, TSX:NGD, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press