Canada's main stock index closes down slightly, snapping five-day win streak

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Canada's main stock index closed down slightly Thursday, snapping a five-day "Santa Claus rally" winning streak.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 50.01 points at 21,294.64, ending a holiday season streak of gains but still closing more than 600 points higher than where it sat at the beginning of the month.

Historically, stock markets have tended to rise during the last week of December and the first few days of the new year, giving rise to the term “Santa Claus rally.”

But Mona Mahajan, senior investment strategist for Edward Jones, said it's notable that North American markets have come through the end of December so strongly this year, considering the headwinds they were facing.

"This market has been able to climb a couple of big walls of worry. Number one, obviously, is we’ve seen this notable rise in virus cases driven by Omicron," said Mahajan, pointing out that investors seem to be increasingly confident that this latest wave of COVID-19 will not wreak the same sort of havoc on the economy as previous waves.

In addition, Mahajan said the market has surged ahead even amid the likelihood of a rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve in 2022.

“I think the Bank of Canada is on a similar path of raising rates early in the new year, or at least in the first half. So I think it's interesting that markets are still able to go through the Santa Claus rally," she said.

"Of course, there were low (trading) volumes as people are headed toward holidays, but nevertheless, we’re set up pretty well to end the year in strong double-digit gains."

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 90.55 points at 36,398.08. The S&P 500 was down 14.33 points at 4,778.73, while the Nasdaq composite was down 24.66 points at 15,741.56.

The Canadian dollar traded for 78.27 cents US compared with 78.10 on Dec. 29.

The February crude contract was up 43 cents at US$76.61 per barrel, and the February natural gas contract was down 26 cents at $3.44 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was up US$8.30 at US$1814.10 an ounce and the March copper contract was down two cents to US$4.39 a pound.

There is still a lot of liquidity in the market right now due to central bank actions, Mahajan said, and investors tend to like equities during inflationary periods as they typically to outperform the rate of inflation.

Still, she said that heading into 2022, investors should be prepared for things to settle down somewhat.

"Generally our view is that we'll be getting moderating earnings and economic growth, moderating inflation — which may be a good thing — and certainly moderating fiscal policy support," she said. "And from a market perspective, we do think we'll be getting moderating returns."

That doesn't mean investors should panic, Mahajan said, just that the 20 per cent-plus gains experienced this year by the S&P/TSX composite index are unlikely to repeat themselves in 2022.

"We certainly recommend investors to remain invested, just be mindful that there will be more volatility and the return profiles will look different than what we saw this year," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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