North American markets end week lower on waning hopes for aggressive rate cuts

TORONTO — North American stock markets ended the week lower on mixed second-quarter corporate results and waning expectations of aggressive interest rates cuts later this month.

"I think everybody's just focused on the earnings season and trying to assess all the Fed commentary in the last few weeks," said Patrick Blais, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

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The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 8.29 points to 16,485.94, just 2.18 points lower for the week.

Eight of the 11 major sectors the index decreased, led by industrials and telecommunications, with BRP Inc. shares falling 4.8 per cent and both national railways dipping.

The influential energy and materials sectors rose on the day, with Encana Corp. and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. both gaining strongly, as the price of crude oil increased due to some geopolitical issues in the Middle East and miner's shares gained despite a lower gold price.

The September crude contract was up 34 cents at US$55.76 per barrel and the August natural gas contract was down 3.6 cents at US$2.25 per mmBTU.

The August gold contract was down US$1.40 at US$1,426.70 an ounce and the September copper contract was up 4.25 cents at US$2.75 a pound.

Crude prices increased Friday after Iran's Revolutionary Guard said it seized a British oil tanker that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

"But that said, the fundamentals of oil right now seem biased towards the downside in the medium-term," Blais said in an interview.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 68.77 points at 27,154.20. The S&P 500 index was down 18.50 points at 2,976.61, while the Nasdaq composite was down 60.75 points at 8,146.49.

U.S. markets dropped as the New York Federal Reserve walked back Thursday comments from president John Williams that were interpreted as confirmation of large interest rate cuts.

"But today there was some commentary which was trying to temper the enthusiasm for very aggressive easing and just trying to find a balance," Blais added.

"The market is now interpreting that as less certainty of a 50 basis point cut at the next meeting and edging more towards a 25 bps cut."

The Dow ended the day slightly lower despite a 4.5-per-cent gain by Boeing Company. The jet maker said it will take a US$4.9-billion charge to pay for compensation for airlines because of the ground of its 737 Max. The charge assumes the plane will return to service later this year.

As a result of a strengthening U.S. dollar, the loonie traded for an average of 76.51 cents US compared with an average of 76.52 cents US on Thursday.

Markets were fairly flat after the first week of quarterly results as investors wait for more direction with the bulk of U.S. companies reporting over the next two weeks, said Blais.

"Its a wait-and-see approach until the results come out."

Companies in this story: (TSX:DOO, TSX:CNR, TSX:CP, TSX:ECA, TSX:FM, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

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