Economy & Markets

TSX gold stocks retreat

By Linda Nguyen |
Source: The Canadian Press

Canada's main stock index held steady Thursday as investor worries over the ability of U.S. President Donald Trump to push ahead with his pro-business agenda amid political scandal were temporarily quelled.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite finished 3.52 points higher at 15,277.20, with gains from most sectors offsetting losses in materials and gold stocks.

The slightly positive finish came a day after the commodity-heavy index suffered its biggest one-day decline of the year, pulling back 269.65 points or 1.73%.

The losses had been even steeper in New York with the three major indices shedding a combined 570 points. The slide, which extended to many major indexes overnight in Asia and Europe, was triggered by growing worries that deepening political tumult in Washington will hinder Trump's plans to enact tax cuts, infrastructure spending and other business-friendly policies.

But on Thursday, major New York indices also recouped some of Wednesday's losses and were sitting in the green at the close.

The Dow Jones industrial average was ahead 56.09 points at 20,663.02, the broader S&P 500 index was up 8.69 points at 2,365.72, and the Nasdaq composite advanced 43.89 points at 6,055.13.

Philip Petursson with Manulife Asset Management says political uncertainty will always remain in the fray but investors seemed to now be shrugging off the potential risks.

"Political risk is more acute now with what's going on in the United States," said Petursson, the firm's chief investment strategist.

"That to me is a lot of noise, as opposed to the fundamental data that we should really be using to make investment decision. It's a distraction."

He said instead, investors should look at the strong Q1 earnings season that just finished wrapping up in the U.S. as well as a bout of data showing signs that the economy is improving.

One such report came out Thursday when the U.S. Labor Department said that applications for weekly unemployment aid fell by 4,000 to 232,000, its lowest level in nearly three months.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, which have been below 300,000, a historically low figure, for 115 weeks _ the longest such streak since 1970.

In the currency market, the Canadian dollar gained 0.02 of a U.S. cent to an average price of US73.47¢.

Bullion prices retracted after soaring on volatility in equity markets the previous day. The June gold contract lost US$5.90 at US$1,252.80 an ounce.

In other commodities, the July crude contract was ahead US25¢ to US$49.66 a barrel, while the July copper contract was down US2¢ at US$2.53 a pound, and the June natural gas contract fell a penny to US$3.18 per mmBTU.

With files from The Associated Press