TORONTO — Canada's main stock index edged higher Friday, as weak new jobs numbers out of the U.S. helped reduce investor anxiety about the possibility of a forthcoming taper of stimulus programs by the Federal Reserve.
The S&P/TSX composite index gained 26.31 points to a new closing high of 20,821.43, breaking the previous record set just the day before.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 74.73 points at 35,369.09. The S&P 500 index was down 1.52 points at 4,535.43, while the Nasdaq composite was up 32.34 points at 15,363.52. Both of these markets had closed at record highs Thursday.
Market performance Friday was largely driven by a new jobs report from the U.S. Labour Department, said Macan Nia, senior investment strategist with Manulife Financial.
The report indicated the American economy added just 235,000 jobs in August, a surprisingly weak gain after two months of robust hiring, at a time when the coronavirus' highly contagious delta variant’s spread has discouraged some people from flying, shopping and eating out.
The August job gains fell far short of the big gains in June and July of roughly 1 million a month. Those gains followed widespread vaccinations that allowed the easing of many pandemic restrictions.
The jobs report led investors to question whether the delta variant is starting to impact economic growth. As a result, Nia said, investors are less anxious that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin tapering down its bond purchase program — which pumps money into the financial system and supports the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic — right away.
“The markets have been fueled by accommodative central bank policy, and that has been one of the factors that have led to returns we’ve seen over the last year, which have been phenomenal,” Nia said. "If there was worry of a Fed buyback, this jobs report has probably delayed that. So risk-on assets have rallied as a result.”
The Canadian dollar traded for 79.88 cents US compared with 79.54 cents US on Thursday.
The October crude contract was down 70 cents at US$69.29 per barrel and the October natural gas contract was up seven cents at US$4.71 per mmBTU.
The December gold contract was up US$22.20 at US$1,833.70 an ounce and the December copper contract was up three cents at US$4.33 a pound.
Nia said in spite of above-average returns achieved in the past nine months, many investors still feel a sense of caution when they look to the future.
"Clients are cautious about the Delta variant and its impact on economies," Nia said. "But also September has historically been a very weak month for markets, especially in the U.S."
Nia said while economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic may be taking a "two steps forward, one step back" approach, he believes market fundamentals will remain strong moving into the remainder of the year.
"Corporate earnings have been phenomenal. Consumers are still in a good position," Nia said. “So we are advocating to clients that if and when there is a pullback, to take advantage of it.”
— With files from The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2021.
Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press