Toronto stock market faces weaker oil prices; New York trades in short session

TORONTO – A drop in commodity prices dragged the Toronto stock market lower on Friday as Wall Street finished early for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 56.95 points at 13,368.24 — a decline of half a per cent on the week — with mining and energy issues leading the way lower.

Energy shares fell 1.44 per cent as the price of oil slid on the heels of weak Chinese economic data, which resurrected oversupply concerns.

The January contract for benchmark crude oil was down $1.33 to US$41.71 a barrel while January natural gas dropped nine cents to US$2.21 per mmBtu.

Next week, OPEC will convene for a meeting that could see the oil cartel rein in production or keep it at current levels. The decision could determine the direction of oil prices in the coming months.

Analysts widely anticipate oil prices will remain under pressure well into next year.

“It’s not looking great for the next year because you still are seeing (energy) producers in survival mode and they are going to maximize production,” said Cavan Yie, equity analyst of investments at Manulife Asset Management.

“You are going to have to see oil low for a while before you see these bankruptcies happen and supplies permanently run off.”

In other commodities, a stronger U.S. dollar pushed the December gold contract down $13.80 to $1,056.20 an ounce — hitting a new five-year low.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.44 of a U.S. cent at 74.78 cents US.

In New York, markets closed early at 1 p.m. ET following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

That still gave traders enough time to digest the initial anecdotal information on retail sales from Thanksgiving and early morning Black Friday.

The Dow Jones industrials was down 14.90 points at 17,798.49, while the broader S&P 500 edged up 1.24 points to 2,090.11 and the Nasdaq added 11.38 points to 5,127.52.

Broadly speaking, the sentiment was that while consumer traffic was high in stores, people weren’t spending as much as last year. Shares of a number of big name retailers — like Wal-Mart and Amazon — lost ground as a result.

“The consumer performance in the U.S. has been good but not great,” said Yie, reflecting on recent months of economic data.

“While the’re benefiting from lower gas prices, and unemployment continues to trend down, we’re seeing the U.S. consumer save a little more, which is putting a damper on total consumer spending.”

Shares of pharmacy chain operator Jean Coutu Group (TSX:PJC.A) briefly hit their lowest point in nearly 2 1/2 years as Quebec’s association of pharmacy owners promised to spar with provincial plans to introduce a system that would decide which generic drugmakers become exclusive suppliers for specific medications.

Jean Coutu, which declined to comment on the matter, saw its shares recover slightly from the lowest point, ending the session down $1.30 to $17.50.

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