Toronto stock market slips as gold prices factor in potential U.S. rate hike

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market finished lower Thursday as gold prices dropped to a three-week low on growing expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year.

The S&P/TSX index ended down 71.28 points at 13,791.88, while the Canadian dollar was up 0.15 of a U.S. cent to 75.95 cents US as the greenback retreated against a number of major currencies.

The metals and mining sector was the biggest decliner, falling 7.5 per cent, on broad declines in metals prices as traders reacted to comments from the latest Federal Reserve meeting, released Wednesday.

In its statement, the Fed hinted at the possibility of raising rates in December for the first time in seven years, a move which appeared to unsettle traders.

“I think people, for the most part, had written off a hike for 2015,” said Luciano Orengo, managing director and portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

“When you look at the wording of yesterday’s Fed meetings it put the probability of a hike higher than what it was before.”

The December gold contract plunged $28.80 to US$1,147.30 an ounce, while December copper fell four cents to US$2.32 a pound.

The TSX materials and gold sectors both dropped 3.5 per cent after underwhelming financial results from some major companies.

Shares of Goldcorp tumbled 10 per cent, or $1.96, after the company reported a deeper quarterly loss affected by falling precious metals prices.

Industrial giant Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) was also a contributor to the decline, falling more than 17 per cent after reporting a US$4.9-billion third-quarter loss, tied mostly to writedowns on its CSeries and Learjet 85 business jet programs. The company also announced it is getting a US$1 billion lifeline from the Quebec government to help complete development of the CSeries.

In other commodities, crude oil prices for December added 12 cents to US$46.06 a barrel, while December natural gas gave back four cents to US$2.26 per mmBtu.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 23.72 points at 17,755.80, while the broader S&P 500 shed 0.94 of a point to 2,089.41 and the Nasdaq pulled back 21.42 points to 5,074.27.

In economic news, the Commerce Department said U.S. economic growth slowed to a 1.5 per cent rate in the July-September quarter as businesses cut production of goods and drew down inventories. That was down from the 3.9 per cent rate of the previous quarter and lower than analyst forecasts for 1.7 per cent growth.

Shares in Botox maker Allergan (NYSE:AGN) jumped six per cent after it reported holding talks with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) about a sale. Both companies have a long history of deal-making and Allergan completed a $66 billion acquisition earlier this year. Pfizer shares were down over two per cent.

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