TORONTO – The TSX closed higher on Thursday while American markets retreated after the U.S. Federal Reserve decided to stand pat on interest rates, citing a weak global economy, persistently low inflation and unstable financial markets.
In Toronto, the S&P/TSX index closed up 23.38 points at 13,787.16 after soaring just over 300 points on Wednesday, by far its biggest gain since late last month amid a period of extreme volatility.
The loonie rose more than half a cent after the announcement but fell back to end the day down 0.01 of a US cent at 75.91 cents US.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 65.21 points to close at 16,674.74, the broader S&P 500 dropped 5.11 points to 1,990.20 and the Nasdaq rose 4.71 points to 4,893.95.
On commodity markets, the October contract for benchmark oil slid 25 cents to US$46.90 a barrel and October natural gas fell 0.8 of a cent to US$2.652 per thousand cubic feet. December gold gave back $2 to US$1,117.00 an ounce, while December copper was unchanged at US$2.45 a pound.
On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. central bank said it would keep its benchmark overnight interest rate at between zero and 0.25 per cent.
The rate, a widely watched number that affects nearly every part of the American economy through its effect on bank lending rates, has gone unchanged since 2008 when the world was in the throes of the global financial crisis and credit markets were seizing up.
The Fed’s rate decision was approved on a 9-1 vote. The sole dissenter was Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Fed’s Atlanta regional bank, who backed a 25-basis-point increase.
However, the Fed, in language it has used before, said rates would only rise when it sees further improvement in the labour market and is “reasonably confident” that inflation will move back to the Fed’s optimal inflation target of two per cent.
The U.S. central bank said inflation was up just 1.2 per cent in its latest reading. It foresees inflation accelerating to a 1.7 per cent increase next year, but still below the target rate.
Meanwhile, the majority of Fed policy-makers said they still expected a rate hike would occur before the end of the year, predicting a single, quarter-point increase.
Patrick O’Toole, vice-president at CIBC Asset Management, said the documents released by the Fed along with its decision show the central bank believes that America is growing at a fairly healthy rate in 2016.
“If you’re running an economy at a growth rate that’s higher than what some would say is trend, it’s curious that they think they can justify holding rates at an emergency setting of zero,” he said.
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