Stocks surge: buyers descend on beaten down shares, hope for QE relief

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market charged ahead for a second day Friday, racking up a strong tripled-digit advance as traders bought up stocks badly beaten down over the course of a string of market jolts and amid speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve might extend a key stimulus program.

The S&P/TSX composite index jumped 174.71 points to 14,227.68, leaving the TSX little changed since last Friday after six weeks of punishing losses that, at its worst at mid-week, saw the Toronto market down 12 per cent from the recent highs of early September.

“You often see these reactionary bounces back up,” said Chris King, a portfolio manager at Morgan Meighen and Associates.

It’s too soon to call an end to the pullbacks seen on the TSX and New York markets — something King said was necessary.

“Equity markets valuations were becoming a bit stretched for core earnings. And core earnings I think are still intact but you don’t want equity markets to be too far away from them on a valuation basis and I think this is all good,” he said. “We’re very happy to see this correction finally happen.”

The Canadian dollar shed 0.22 of a cent to 88.68 cents US amid data showing Canada’s cost of living was up 0.2 per cent in September on a seasonally adjusted basis after increasing 0.1 per cent in August.

U.S. indexes also registered solid gains as traders reacted to comments by St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank president James Bullard that the Fed should consider delaying the end of its massive bond purchase program, given declining inflation expectations.

The quantitative easing program is set to finish at the end of this month and has been one of the reasons for the recent volatility on markets that has slashed the value of stocks across the board. The program has been credited with keeping long-term rates low and fuelling a strong rally on stock markets over the last few years.

Positive earnings news from General Electric and Morgan Stanley and rising consumer confidence also helped push the Dow Jones industrials up 263.17 points to 16,380.41. The Nasdaq ran ahead 41.05 points to 4,258.44 and the S&P 500 index advanced 24 points to 1,886.76 as the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence index for October came in at 86.4, beating expectations for a read of 84.

U.S. markets have so far avoided formally falling into correction, defined as a drop of 10 per cent from recent highs, but that could change. Losses this week left the Dow down five per cent since Sept. 19 while the S&P 500 has fallen 6.5 per cent. Both indexes had been at or close to record levels and a correction had been widely expected since there hadn’t been a retracement in three years.

Beyond the end of QE, traders have also been unnerved over a recent run of data pointing to economic weakness practically everywhere except the United States.

The TSX is still down about nine per cent from its September highs.

Most TSX sectors were positive Friday as traders moved into areas that have been hard hit as the market moved into correction territory this week.

Financials were a major gainer, up two per cent.

The energy sector was up 1.3 per cent Friday on top of a three per cent rise Thursday as oil prices in New York inched up five cents to US$82.75 a barrel.

The component is still down about 16 per cent for the last month as oil prices fell from the US$95 a barrel level to bounce off the $80 mark on Thursday.

Rising rail stocks helped push the industrials sector ahead two per cent.

December copper was up two cents at US$3 a pound and the base metals sector gained two per cent.

The gold sector was the weak link, down about three per cent as December bullion faded $2.20 to US$1,239 an ounce.

For the week, the TSX was flat while the Dow industrials shed 164 points or one per cent.