Stocks could be in for more declines, evidence mounts economic recovery slowing

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market likely faces more headwinds this week after further indications of slowing job growth added to worries that the economic recovery is running out of steam.

Traders will also be looking to how Canadian job creation fared in April after data last week showed the economy stalling out in February.

The TSX sustained its biggest weekly loss for 2012, down 2.99 per cent amid sliding commodity prices as traders dealt with official word that Spain had landed back in recession, data showing slowing manufacturing growth in the eurozone and China and a much poorer than expected performance in the American non-manufacturing sector during April.

The week was capped by Friday’s announcement that the U.S. economy only managed to create 115,000 jobs during April, far less than the 160,000 that economists expected. Friday’s steep, triple-digit tumble left the TSX down 0.7 per cent year to date.

“And there’s a connection between what’s going on in the observable data which has shown at a minimum a loss of momentum. The momentum that we saw in the US economic recovery coming into 2012 has definitely subsided,” said Andrew Pyle, investment adviser with ScotiaMcLeod in Peterborough, Ont.

“Clearly the pace of the recovery has slipped and I think that is being reflected in the market because other than the fact we had a really nice recovery in stocks at the end of April, we’re still seeing a lack of follow-through, a lack of momentum in equities.”

Pyle also noted that there are worries about a parallel between 2012 and the last two years when markets started the year off strong but faltered.

“And I’m wondering if there is an anxiety out there in the marketplace, is it going to be a three-peat?” he said.

“And that would tend to reduce momentum in the market, it definitely would depress conviction and at the very far end of the extreme, if you had enough number to kind of justify that concern or anxiety, it actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and equities start to roll over as we make our way through May.”

The resource-intensive TSX suffered from a slide in commodities last week as prices for oil and copper retreated on demand concerns. Oil closed below US$100 for the first time since February and copper fell 10 cents, or almost three per cent.

Traders also looked to the release of the Canadian April employment report on Friday. But no one expects the economy to match the burst of job creation during March that saw 82,000 jobs created.

“We suspect that it will come right back to earth in April and we’ll just get modest gains,” said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

“I certainly wouldn’t rule out a partial reversal, that was one of the biggest job gains on record we had in March and I don’t think any other variable out there would corroborate that strength.”

He noted the economy is growing but not by much.

In fact, in the latest read on growth, Statistics Canada said last Monday the economy actually shrank by 0.2 per cent during February.

“So I think we will do well to get a 10,000 job gain in April, and given the volatility in numbers, I wouldn’t rule out a small retracement, a small pullback in jobs.”

Economic concerns tended to overshadow a series of positive earnings reports last week from BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), insurer Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC), Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) and Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX).

It is another heavy week for Canadian earnings with food company and Loblaw (TSX:L) majority share owner George Weston (TSX:WN) on Tuesday, home improvement retailer Rona (TSX:RON), HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) and Tim Hortons (TSX:THI) and pipeline company Enbridbge (TSX:ENB) Wednesday. Insurer Sun Life Financial (TSX:SU) and Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A) report on Thursday.