TSX soars as benchmark oil hits US$40 a barrel; loonie just shy of 77 cents US | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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TSX soars as benchmark oil hits US$40 a barrel; loonie just shy of 77 cents US

March 17, 2016 - 1:49 PM

TORONTO - Enthusiasm over the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to go slow on interest rate hikes helped lift the Toronto stock market to a triple-digit gain Thursday amid soaring commodity prices that saw oil finish above US$40 a barrel for the first time since early December.

At the close, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 143.17 points at 13,621.30. The big bump came on the heels of a 77-point gain Wednesday after release of the U.S. central bank's outlook on rates, which was considered positive for both commodities and stock markets generally.

The Fed's move also breathed new life into the loonie, which managed to poke its head above 77 cents US at various times throughout the day before finally closing just sky of that mark, up 0.78 of a U.S. cent at 76.99 cents.

The last time the Canadian dollar closed above the 77-cent mark was on Oct. 20, 2015 when it finished at 77.03 cents US.

Benjamin Jang, a portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management, said the Fed's less-aggressive stance on rates has weakened the U.S. dollar and "is allowing some strength in the commodity market."

"So that is driving the Canadian equity market, particularly commodity focused names," he said.

Oil has also been helped by OPEC's decision to meet with other producers in mid-April, raising the possibility of a freeze on output, while gold has the further benefit of rising inflation.

"Gold moves generally in line with inflation," Jang said.

On commodity markets, the April contract for benchmark North American crude was up 1.74 at US$40.20, while April natural gas added seven cents to US$1.94 per mmBtu. April gold soared $35.20 to US$1,265.00 a troy ounce, while copper shot up six cents to US$2.29 a pound.

New York markets were also buoyed by the Fed news, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising 155.73 points to 17,481.49, while the S&P 500 rose 13.37 points to 2,040.59 and the Nasdaq edged up 11.02 points to 4,774.99.

Most major components of the Toronto and New York indexes were higher, with mining and energy stocks among the main beneficiaries.

Health-care issues were a major exception as the political furor in the U.S. Congress over alleged price-gouging continued to drive drug companies lower.

Among them was Valeant Pharmaceuticals (TSX:VRX), which fell $5.18 or almost 12 per cent to $38.66 in Toronto. Quebec-based Valeant lost more than 50 per cent of its value earlier this week after a disappointing earnings report and outlook that also raised questions about its ability to meet debt obligations.

"Historically we haven't been a fan of their business model, which has been growth by acquisition and cutting down on R&D expenses," Jang said. "The concern has been the sustainability of that type of business model."

"That being said, at the price Valeant is now, we think there is quite a bit of value," he added.

"The companies that Valeant purchased are real companies and, if you do a sum of the parts taking a look at the value of all those companies, I think there is a chance for significant (stock) price appreciation once this cloud of negative news passes by."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated the closing value of the Canadian dollar on Oct. 20, 2015.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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