S&P/TSX composite starts 2022 higher as energy, financials climb on Omicron hopes

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TORONTO — The energy and financials sectors lifted Canada's main stock index to start 2022 on anticipation that the Omicron variant will carry less of a punch despite rising infections.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 13.68 points to 21,236.52 after a strong morning start to trading.

The Toronto-based market rose as much as about 250 points in a catch up from strong gains during Monday trading in the U.S. when the TSX was closed because New Year's Day fell on Saturday.

"Overall I would look at it as a pleasant start to the new year, but nothing to get me too excited if you're looking at the TSX," said Allan Small, senior investment adviser at IA Private Wealth.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 214.59 points at 36,799.65 and the S&P 500 index was down 3.02 points at 4,793.54 even though both set record intraday highs.

The Nasdaq composite was down 210.08 points at 15,622.72.

Tech stocks were hurt by higher bond yields with 10-year U.S. treasuries rising to 1.648 per cent and Canadian 10-year government bonds at 1.587 per cent.

"It's a tech sell-off, a tech wreck," Small said in an interview.

In a rising interest-rate environment, he said, it's more difficult to justify hefty valuations because the future earnings potential isn't as great.

In Canada, Shopify Inc. shares plunged 10.9 per cent to push the technology sector down 3.3 per cent.

Small said tech stocks being unloaded could become bargains if the sell-off persists for a few days.

"So it's kind of a silly game that investors are playing and it's all based on higher rates."

Energy was the leading sector on the TSX, gaining nearly 3.7 per cent on higher crude oil prices as shares of Crescent Point Energy Corp. and MEG Energy Corp. increased 6.7 and 6.6 per cent, respectively.

The February crude contract was up 91 cents at US$76.99 per barrel and the February natural gas contract was down 9.8 cents at US$3.72 per mmBTU.

Crude prices climbed after OPEC plus its allies confirmed plans to boost production by 400,000 barrels per day.

It prompted a bit of a "relief rally" on the TSX even though the move was expected as it removed some uncertainty stemming from the Omicron variant, said Small.

Although infection rates are surging, hospitalizations are down, which has prompted reassurances that it won't be severe and hurt demand for oil.

Airline stocks got a lift, including Air Canada, whose shares increased 4.9 per cent.

"I think the market once again is looking past Omicron like it did looking past other variants early on in the pandemic," he said, noting a potential benefit.

"Maybe it's an opportunity for us to get to herd immunity a lot quicker and less severe."

The Canadian dollar traded for 78.69 cents US compared with 78.88 cents US on Friday.

Higher bond yields supported the heavyweight financials sectors with all Canadian banks gaining, led by Bank of Montreal, whose shares rose 3.6 per cent.

Materials was lower despite an increase in gold prices as Nutrien Ltd. shares lost four per cent after the potash producer announced the departure of its CEO.

The February gold contract was up US$14.50 at US$1,814.60 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 5.4 cents at nearly US$4.48 pound.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CPG, TSX:MEG, TSX:NTR, TSX:SHOP, TSX:BMO, TSX:AC, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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