Major stock markets show little movement, crude oil posts slight recovery

TORONTO – It was a slow day for North American stock markets, with major indexes barely nudged in either direction despite major economic data released overnight and Friday.

Going into this week, investors were focused on an anticipated announcement from the Bank of Japan to help stimulate the country’s lagging economy.

On Friday, the nation’s central bank announced it will help inject more cash into its economy by expanding purchases of exchange-traded funds from financial institutions and pursuing its two per cent inflation target.

Investors had hoped for more aggressive action.

“Through the eyes of the market, it was a little bit of a disappointment,” said Macan Nia, a senior investment strategist with Manulife Investments.

In addition to that announcement, Canada and its southern neighbour both released GDP data Friday.

In May, Canada’s gross domestic product showed a contraction of 0.6 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. The figure is Canada’s worst monthly performance since real GDP fell 0.8 per cent in March 2009.

In the U.S., by comparison, the Department of Commerce said GDP grew at a 1.2-per-cent annual rate in the quarter, which encompassed April to June.

Despite this data, major North American stock market indexes remained pretty flatline, Nia said.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index inched up 30.02 points to 14,582.74 ahead of a civic holiday that will keep Toronto’s exchange closed Monday.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down slightly, dropping 24.11 points to 18,432.24.

But the other two main U.S. indexes were up, with the broader S&P 500 composite index advancing 3.54 points to 2,173.60 and the Nasdaq composite gaining 7.15 points to 5,162.13.

“I think the reason that they haven’t been that impactful is that it’s not a big difference to the events that happened before it,” said Nia. “It’s not a big directional change in one way or another.”

While they were underwhelming data points, he said, they followed the trend of sluggish economic growth.

Meanwhile in commodities, crude oil recovered slightly from the previous day’s low performance, with the September contract up 46 cents at US$41.60 per barrel after closing Thursday at $41.14 — its lowest price since April.

The Canadian dollar was boosted by oil’s performance, said Nia, with the loonie advancing to 76.59 cents US, up 0.61 of a U.S. cent from Thursday’s close.

Elsewhere in commodities, the September natural gas contract was relatively unchanged, moving up 0.3 of a cent to US$2.876 per mmBTU, while December gold contracts rose $16.30 to US$1,357.50 an ounce and September copper contracts advanced 1.25 cents to US$2.22 per pound.

— With files from the Associated Press

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had an incorrect closing figure for the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index.