TORONTO — Canada's main stock index ended the year up almost 22 per cent for its second straight year of double-digit gains, even as it ended the last day of 2021 in the red.
The S&P/TSX composite index was down 71.80 points at 21,222.84 on light trading to close the year up 21.7 per cent.
Surging cases of COVID-19 from the latest variant continued to weigh on markets with little other news of note Friday, said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategist at Edward Jones.
"Many stock markets around the world are closed ahead of the new year and there were no Canadian or U.S. economic releases," he said in an interview.
“The focus really remains on the surge of the Omicron variant."
Nonetheless, the TSX ended the week higher than it began, Kourkafas noted, while capping off a historically strong year.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 59.78 points at 36,338.30. The S&P 500 was down 12.55 points at 4,766.18, while the Nasdaq composite was down 96.59 points at 15,644.97.
Looking back on the year, investors have much to celebrate, Kourkafas said. "There’s been a few twists and turns, but the year really has given investors the best of both worlds."
On the upside he pointed to the strong returns — the Canadian index posted 62 new highs over the course of 2021 on its climb and overtook the 20,000-point milestone for the first time. And even on the downside, investors saw "pretty infrequent and short-lived pullbacks" compared with typical TSX performance.
Commodities too had a strong year, which benefits the energy- and mining-heavy Toronto exchange. North American benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude is up more than 50 per cent on the year and has now gained for seven straight quarters, the longest streak since 1983.
The February crude contract was down US$1.78 to US$75.21 per barrel on Friday, and the February natural gas contract was up 17 cents US at US$3.73 per mmBTU.
The February gold contract was up US$14.50 at US$1,828.60 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 7.1 cents to US$4.46 a pound.
Along with giving a boost to the stock market, strong commodities have helped lift the Canadian dollar, which Kourkafas said "is the only advanced economy currency, major currency, that has actually advanced against the U.S. dollar" this year.
The loonie traded for 78.88 cents US Friday compared with 78.27 on Dec. 30.
As everyone turns their sights to the new year, Kourkafas said there is room for optimism. "The pandemic continues to pose unique challenges; we’re still talking about record cases in many parts of the world. But the economy has proven to be resilient and in our view that resiliency is going to be maintained next year," he said.
"We have strong consumer and corporate finances, still-low interest rates and we shouldn’t forget that we haven’t seen yet the full reopening of the economy. So all of these things, we think, provide a pretty steady foundation for the bull market to continue next year."
That doesn't necessarily mean another year of gains over 20 per cent, with returns expected to moderate. Volatility will also be closer to normalized levels, he said.
"Usually we see on an average year, three per cent and five per cent pullbacks and one 10 per cent correction. We haven’t seen a correction yet this year and probably that’s in the cards for next year."
But it's the economy's demonstrated ability to weather the recurrent storms of the pandemic that market-watchers should consider for 2022, he said.
"We have seen that again and again this year – we’ve been through multiple waves of the virus and each successive wave has had less and less economic impact ... the negative impact has been lower every time. Consumers and corporations have in a sense adapted and learned to live with the virus.
"So hopefully what’s going on with Omicron is a near-term setback but that doesn’t necessarily change the overall trajectory."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2021.
Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)
The Canadian Press