TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed relatively flat Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve hinted that it likely won’t move on interest rates any time soon.
The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 7.18 points at 14,980.15. The Canadian dollar fell 0.40 of a cent to 88.10 cents US.
The latest minutes from the Fed’s October meeting showed that a number of officials were confident that the U.S. economy was on solid footing and expected it to keep improving.
The minutes also indicated that policy-makers renewed a debate from their September meeting about whether they should still use the phrase “considerable time” when speaking about when they should hike short-term rates after halting the Fed’s monthly bond purchases at the end of October. In the end, they voted to keep the phrase to avoid markets misinterpreting its removal.
Rates have been near zero since the 2008 financial crisis. It’s generally expected that a hike won’t come until mid-2015.
New York’s Dow industrials edged down 2.09 points to 17,685.73, while the Nasdaq fell 26.73 points to 4,675.71 and the S&P 500 index declined 3.08 points to 2,048.72.
The Toronto market was held back by the resource sectors with the energy component down 0.64 per cent as crude oil prices remain stuck around the US$75-a-barrel level. The December oil contract in New York dipped three cents to $74.58.
Prices were little changed even after the release of data showing that U.S. inventories rose by 2.6 million barrels this week against the 1.5-million barrel drop that analysts had expected.
“I think the oil price has overshot to the downside,” said Paul Vaillancourt, executive vice-president, private wealth at Fiera Capital in Calgary.
“I’m not sure we’re going to revisit the $100-a-barrel level. That wasn’t warranted where we were in the economic recovery. But 75 bucks is not accurate either. It’s not a proper reflection. I think it should be bouncing back towards the $80 level.”
The base metals group was down 1.63 per cent while the December copper contract closed four cents higher at US$3.05 a pound.
The gold sector gave back 5.6 per cent as the December bullion contract lost $3.20 to US$1,193.90 an ounce.
The consumer staples group led advancers on the TSX, climbing 2.61 per cent as grocer Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU) reported a profit of $115.6-million or $1.32 per share in its fiscal fourth quarter, beating analyst estimates of $1.29. Its revenue in the fourth quarter was up 3.9 per cent from a year earlier, rising to $2.7 billion, while Metro’s same-store sales were up 3.1 per cent. Metro’s shares closed up $8, or almost 10 per cent, at $90.50.
Shares in pipeline company TransCanada (TSX:TRP) climbed $1.50 to $57.50 after CEO Russ Girling said he expects the company’s dividend to grow at an average annual rate of at least eight per cent through 2017. He added that “success in advancing our major projects” could push annual dividend growth rate to 10 per cent or higher.