S&P/TSX composite down, U.S. stock markets up modestly on low volume trading day

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TORONTO — Weakness in commodity prices led to a down day for Canada’s main stock index, while U.S markets saw modest gains on a low-volume summer trading day.

Greg Taylor, chief investment officer of Purpose Investments, said Thursday was a typical summer day where markets were waiting to be given a sense of direction.

“It really does feel like the market’s waiting for something,” said Taylor.

“We’re at a holding period where the market’s at all time highs, and there’s a lot of concerns about what comes next whether it’s actions from the U.S. Federal Reserve on adjusting interest rates or with the virus whether there’s a fourth wave, and it’s keeping a lot of people on the sidelines.”

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 33.41 points at 20,520.60, with its materials and gold indices weighing heavily.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 14.88 points at 35,499.85. The S&P 500 index was up 13.13 points at 4,460.83, while the Nasdaq composite was up 51.12 points at 14,816.26.

As speculation around a possible election heats up In Canada, Taylor said investors should be aware that a federal election campaign could create volatility, as could the entrance of a majority government with more freedom to affect policy.

“Markets generally don’t like uncertainty, so if it is an election that becomes closer than some people think, that could weigh on expectations for the market,” he said.

“There’ll be questions around what spending is going to be on, what promises are made, what sectors are going to benefit and which ones are going to be hurt.”

Meanwhile, commodities had a weak day on Thursday after a strong day Wednesday off a weakening U.S. dollar.

The Canadian dollar fell back slightly on Thursday to 79.87 cents US compared with 79.96 cents US on Wednesday.

The December gold contract was down US$1.50 at US$1,751.80 an ounce and the September copper contract was down less than a penny at US$4.36 a pound.

Taylor said it was interesting to watch the continued disconnect between gold and cryptocurrencies, which have had a notable run over the past month. Bitcoin was up around 35 per cent on the month as of Thursday afternoon, although it faltered on the day with a drop of 3.91 per cent in the 24 hours preceding the afternoon.

The September crude oil contract was down 16 cents at US$69.09 per barrel and the September natural gas contract was down 12.6 cents at US$3.93 per mmBTU.

Investors should watch whether growing Delta variant cases of COVID-19 affect air travel numbers, Taylor said, as that could add downward pressure on the price of oil.

In second quarter earnings, Brookfield Asset Management Inc. posted a strong quarter with increased revenues, but still saw its stock sink 1.37 per cent to $70.89 in what Taylor said was a sign of a “tired” market.

“To me it feels a bit like a sell on news more than anything else,” said Taylor.

“There was really not a big follow-through buy on the back of (strong numbers), and I think that’s another sign the market is getting close to exhaustion.”

Other notable Canadian companies that reported quarterly earnings Thursday included Canadian Tire Corp., which saw it’s stock remain fairly level at a gain of 0.07 per cent after reporting a 20 per cent increase in revenue compared to last year.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X, TSX:BAM.A, TSX:CTC.A)

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press