Economy & Markets

The news that U.S. inflation remained unchanged in June led to new highs in New York

By Canadian Press |
Source: The Canadian Press

Major North American stock indices made moderate gains ahead of the weekend on news that U.S. inflation was unchanged last month.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index advanced 39.81 points to 15,174.81.

In New York, two indices reached all-time highs. The S&P 500 index added 11.44 points for a record of 2,459.27, while the Dow Jones industrial average rose 84.65 points to 21,637.74 — its third consecutive day of record highs.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq composite index climbed 38.03 points to 6,312.47.

The U.S. Department of Labor released data showing inflation was unchanged in June and rose 1.6% over the last 12 months. Excluding food and energy items, the consumer price index rose 0.1% in June and 1.7% for the past 12 months, the department said.

Those figures, which came in below market expectations, were the primary driver behind the growth Friday, said senior investment strategist Macan Nia of Manulife Financial Corp.

Nia said the flat inflation numbers gave markets a boost because it suggests the U.S. Federal Reserve Board may have more reason to delay another interest rate increase.

The market thinks the Fed is "going to be a little bit more cautious," he said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. central bank had already signalled it may slow down the pace of rate hikes if annual inflation stays below its 2% target.

That's good news for markets in a simplistic sense because it means the cost of borrowing money to invest remains low, Nia said.

The belief the U.S. may slow its rate hikes also weakens the U.S. dollar and provides a boost for gold, he said.

The price of the precious metal shot up US$10.20 to US$1,227.50 an ounce, as the global gold sector led advancers on the TSX, where bullion stocks gained an average of nearly 1% of their worth.

Elsewhere in commodities, the August crude contract gained US46¢ to US$46.54 per barrel and the August natural gas contract advanced US1.9¢ to US$2.98 per mmBTU, while the September copper contract was up about US3¢ to roughly US$2.69 a pound.

The Canadian dollar was trading at an average price of US78.91¢, up 0.44 of a U.S. cent.