TSX advances on higher oil, gold prices; Dow Jones posts triple-digit increase

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market posted a solid advance Monday as sharply higher commodity prices boosted mining and energy stocks.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed 74.03 points higher at 15,100.65 after being up more than 100 points most of the afternoon before giving back some of its gains late in the day.

The loonie closed up 0.55 of a U.S. cent at 80.14 cents. The American dollar has weakened since the U.S. Labour Department reported last week that only 126,000 jobs were created in March, the first time in a year that fewer than 200,000 American jobs were added in a month.

New York markets soared as traders reasoned that Friday’s dismal U.S. jobs report means that the Federal Reserve will be in no hurry to raise interest rates. Low rates are generally seen as a boon to markets.

Traders were also encouraged by the U.S. Institute for Supply Management’s services index, even though it slipped to 56.5 in March from 56.9 in February. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion.

The overall index was dragged down by a measure of sales, which fell last month. However, gauges of hiring and orders were both up, a sign that U.S. services firms may be expecting solid growth in the coming months and that recent signs of a weakening in the American economy may prove temporary.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 117.61 points to 17,880.85, the Nasdaq climbed 30.38 points to 4,917.32 and the S&P 500 was up 13.66 points at 2,080.62.

John Stephenson, president and CEO of Stephenson & Co. Capital Management, said the anticipated findings of the ISM survey, Friday’s U.S. non-farm payrolls report and the likelihood that it will be months before the nuclear deal with Iran will see more oil coming onto the market were all “positive indicators that the market took very favourably.”

Stephenson also noted that Saudi Arabia raised its benchmark price on oil shipments to Asia, its biggest market, on the weekend.

“One of the issues that has hurt the crude complex is the fact that Saudi Arabia seemed to be willing to, at all costs, gain market share and obviously this (price increase) is a bit of an inflection in that thinking,” he said.

On the commodity markets, the May crude contract closed up $3 at US$52.14 a barrel, while June gold bullion rose $17.70 to US$1,218.60 an ounce.

The heavily weighted gold and energy sectors were the two leading gainers on the TSX.

In economic news, the Bank of Canada’s quarterly sampling of business confidence said the sharp drop in oil prices in recent months — down more than 50 per cent from last summer — have dampened the confidence of companies when it comes to future sales growth, investment and hiring.

But when it comes to the Toronto stock market, Stephenson said it pays to keep in mind the heavy weighting of oil and other commodities, the prices of which tend to move inversely with the value of the U.S. dollar.

“So, the U.S. dollar is weakening against a basket of currencies so that’s one issue. And the other issue is just the fact that there is more uncertainty out there and gold has typically been a safe-haven investment that people flock to in times when they are uncertain.”