North American stock markets rise again with TSX continuing record run

·4 min read

TORONTO — A broad-based rally moved Canada's main stock index further into record territory, while the loonie hit a two-week high.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 154.57 points to 18,844.57 after setting a intraday record of 18,881.17.

U.S. stock markets also moved higher with the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 setting intraday records.

The Dow increased 188.57 points at 32,485.59. The S&P 500 index was up 40.53 points at 3,939.34, while the Nasdaq composite was up 329.84 points or 2.5 per cent at 13,398.67.

"Today's quite a positive day. You have all-time highs in the S&P and Dow so it's just a risk-on environment," said Anish Chopra, managing director with Portfolio Management Corp.

Weekly U.S. jobless claims dropped to a four-month low, stimulus cheques will start to be delivered this weekend after President Joe Biden signed the US$1.9-trillion spending package into law and the European Central Bank committed Thursday to further support fixed income markets.

"And I think that whole group of factors plus vaccinations is outweighing the rise in interest rates (bond yields) over the last while plus the virus," he added in an interview.

"So it appears that the vaccinations are winning over the virus."

First-time filings for U.S. unemployment insurance fell to 712,000 last week from 754,000 the week before.

Canada's jobless number for February to be released Friday are expected to also show improvement after a disappointing January.

Chopra said the Canadian labour market is healing but it's going to take some time to get back to a situation similar to what it was pre-COVID.

"So February may be an indication of what the bottom was in the recent number of months for the job market, but if you look forward as areas opened up the jobless number should fall, the unemployment rate should fall."

The Canadian dollar traded for 79.61 cents US compared with 79.13 cents US on Wednesday. That's the highest level since Feb. 25.

The increase is related to rising commodity prices since the loonie as a petro-currency has been helped by a 36 per cent increase in crude prices this year. In addition, the U.S. dollar has weakened.

The April crude contract was up US$1.58 at US$66.02 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was down 2.4 cents at US$2.67 per mmBTU.

Leading the energy sector was Tourmaline Oil Corp., whose shares climbed 6.1 per cent after reporting its quarterly results.

Nine of the 11 major sectors of the TSX were higher.

"It's a strong day so you expect most sectors to be up, which is exactly what you're seeing," said Chopra.

Health care led the TSX, gaining 5.9 per cent as cannabis producers surged with Aphria Inc. up 10.8 per cent, and Cronos Group Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. each up 6.8 per cent.

Technology was second-strongest, climbing 2.5 per cent with Lightspeed POS Inc. up 9.9 per cent and Shopify Inc. 3.9 per cent higher.

After recently enduring a correction with its value down more than 10 per cent from its peak, the tech-heavy Nasdaq has partially recovered, as has Canada's tech sector.

The improvement is tied to U.S. long bond yields, which have softened after climbing above 1.6 per cent.

Materials rose 1.6 per cent as metals prices continued to climb on the supportive economic environment. Hudbay Minerals Inc. increased 9.8 per cent.

The April gold contract was up 80 cents at US$1,722.60 an ounce and the May copper contract was up 10.6 cents at US$4.14 pound.

Air Canada increased 3.4 per cent to help the industrials sector.

Real estate and telecommunications dipped slightly to end the day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:HBM, TSX:SHOP, TSX:LSPD, TSX:APHA, TSX:CRON, TSX:ACB, TSX:AC, TSX:TOU, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADU

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press