TORONTO – Crude values retreated Thursday, tempering expectations of a sustained rise in oil prices that has fuelled gains in the Toronto stock market in recent days.
The S&P/TSX composite index fell 30.09 points to 13,881.20 as the June contract for North American benchmark crude slid $1 to US$43.18 a barrel. Oil had closed at a five-month high on Wednesday on positive data about U.S. crude inventories.
The majority of sectors on the TSX were lower, with metals, consumer staples and real estate being the heaviest decliners. Gains in gold and materials stocks helped offset some of those losses.
The decline in crude also weighed on the Canadian dollar, with the oil-sensitive loonie losing almost half a cent, falling 0.48 of a U.S. cent to 78.57 cents US.
“The rally in oil prices has been a key catalyst for the pushing the loonie higher, but my view is that the loonie is likely to remain range-bound in the mid-70 (U.S. cent range), at least for a little while longer,” said Craig Fehr, a Canadian markets strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
“We could see a pullback in oil prices in the near term and that will obviously put downward pressure on the Canadian dollar.”
Wall Street markets also turned lower, as the Dow Jones industrial average registered a 113.75-point decline to 17,982.52, while the S&P 500 lost 10.92 points to 2,091.48. The tech-heavy Nasdaq edged down 2.24 points to 4,945.89.
Telecom and utilities stocks saw the biggest declines in New York after those sectors experienced some of the biggest gains so far this year.
Internationally, investors were digesting the recent policy meeting of the European Central Bank. The ECB announced that it was going to leave its key interest rates unchanged at zero as it assesses whether current record lows will stimulate the tepid recovery in the 19 countries that share the euro currency.
The refinancing rate determines the cost of central bank credit to commercial banks, and through that steers many other short-term lending rates.
The central bank also didn’t touch its rate of minus 0.4 per cent on funds left on deposit at the central bank by commercial banks. That unusual negative rate is aimed at getting banks to lend the money, not stash it.
“Global investors are largely expecting the European Central Bank to continue exploring and implement aggressive policies to stimulate the economy,” said Fehr.
“Today’s announcement that the rates are being held steady… was a disappointment to some investors.”
Elsewhere on commodity markets, the June gold contract shed $4.10 to US$1,250.30 a troy ounce. The May contract for natural gas was unchanged at US$2.07 per mmBtu, while the May copper contract added a penny to US$2.25 a pound.
— With files from The Associated Press
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