Markets on both sides of the border saw moderate gains on Thursday as U.S. President Donald Trump announced broad tariffs on steel and aluminum that exempted Canada and Mexico.
The president signed proclamations slapping tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum that go into effect for the rest of the world in 15 days. Canada and Mexico are to be excluded from the tariffs for now but uncertainty remains on how firm that exemption is as negotiations continue on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Thursday’s positive finish in North American markets was preceded by mild swings throughout the day as investors waited to see the details and wider implications of the tariffs, said Anish Chopra, managing director with Portfolio Management Corp. in Toronto.
“The markets are in a wait and see mode,” he said. “Is this the start of a trade war, or it just going to be small battles on different areas of trade as opposed to a full-scale trade war?”
The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 66.09 points at 15,538.70, with the industrials and financials sectors offsetting losses in mining stocks.
The April gold contract was down by US$5.90 to US$1,321.70 an ounce and the May copper contract was down by US6¢ to US$3.08 a pound.
Energy also weighed on the commodities-heavy Toronto Stock Exchange, as oil prices saw sharp losses for a second day in a row after the U.S. Energy Department reported Wednesday that American oil production rose last week — a move that thwarts ongoing efforts by OPEC to tighten global supplies and support prices.
The April crude contract was down by US$1.03 to US$60.12 a barrel.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 93.85 points to 24,895.21. The S&P 500 composite index was up 12.17 points to 2,738.97 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 31.30 points to 7,427.95.
Markets could see more movement Friday when the U.S. releases its latest job figures, said Chopra.
“People are waiting for the jobs report tomorrow to see if there are any signs of inflation ticking up in the United States.”
In currency markets, the Canadian dollar closed at an average trading value of US77.36¢, up 0.12 of a U.S. cent.
Elsewhere in commodities, the April natural gas contract was down by US2¢ at US$2.76 per mmBTU.