S&P/TSX climbs for an eighth-straight day as interest in cannabis stocks grow

·4 min read

TORONTO — Canada's main stock index continued its record-setting run for an eighth day on a rising energy sector and cannabis stocks reportedly surging from interest by retail investors.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 49.16 points to 18,457.78 after hitting a record intraday high of 18,527.88.

The winning streak is the longest in more than two years and represents a 6.5 per cent gain since the beginning of February.

U.S. stock markets also set intraday records but lost some of their early shine.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 61.97 points at 31,437.80. The S&P 500 index was down 1.35 points at 3,909.58, while the Nasdaq composite was down 35.17 points at 13,972.53.

"It's not a party where the prices are galloping," noted Erik Bregar, head of currency strategy at the Exchange Bank of Canada.

"They're just crawling higher. It's definitely a melt-up."

The health-care sector surged 6.7 per cent with cannabis producers seeing big gains in their stock prices.

Shares of Aurora Cannabis Inc. soared 21.3 per cent, Cronos Group Inc. 14.6 per cent, Apria Inc. 10.9 per cent and Canopy Growth Corp. 6.2 per cent.

On Nasdaq, Tilray's shares spiked nearly 51 per cent for a year-to-date gain of 673 per cent.

The interest is partially fuelled by suggestions from Democratic senators that federal legalization could be coming this year and by the pending merger between Aphria and Tilray.

However, online chatter also suggests that retail investors who caused GameStop, BlackBerry and then silver to climb have now turned their sights to pot stocks.

Energy climbed two per cent as crude oil prices continued to move higher.

The March crude oil contract was up 32 cents at US$58.68 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up 7.6 cents at US$2.91 per mmBTU.

That helped Enerplus Corp. shares to increase 11.6 per cent and Cenovus Energy Inc. 7.6 per cent.

The gains are being driven by hopes of growing global demand the unexpected reduction of one million barrels per day by Saudi Arabia.

There's also strong physical demand for crude, reinforcing real demand, not just speculation, said Bregar.

The Canadian dollar traded for 78.81 cents US compared with 78.62 cents US on Tuesday.

Materials moved higher as gold and copper continued to climb.

The April gold contract was up US$5.20 at US$1,842.70 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 5.25 cents at US$3.77 a pound.

Gold is a hedge against inflation, but the U.S. consumer price index rose just 0.3 per cent in January while the core index excluding food and energy was unchanged.

"Global markets have been on this reflation hysteria for a few months now but there's no inflation," Bregar said in an interview.

"The market's still drinking the Kool-Aid, that at some point we'll get inflation."

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the central bank is watching for real signs of inflation while noting that monetary policy needs to stay "patiently accommodative” in the face of a challenging labour market.

Powell stressed during a webcast to the Economic Club of New York that the U.S. job market remains weak despite having improved from the depths of the pandemic-induced recession.

And he signalled that the Fed isn't considering any increase in its benchmark short-term interest rate from its level near zero. He also said the central bank is not currently considering any reductions to the size of its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep longer-term interest rates low.

"Despite the surprising speed of recovery early on, we are still very far from a strong labour market whose benefits are broadly shared," Powell said.

Industrials led the losing sectors on the TSX as Ballard Power Systems Inc. lost 13 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press