Late rally pushes TSX higher but test comes with tech earnings reports

TORONTO — Canada's main stock index ended Monday in positive territory but markets in North America will be tested in the coming days with earnings reports by some of the world's tech giants.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft will report and be bellwethers for future performance, says Allan Small, senior investment adviser at HollisWealth.

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"If they tell us business is softening expect the market to come down because these stocks are leading the market and they've led the market for the last few years," he said in an interview.

"These big tech names are key and the crucial thing is to be watching for and it starts with Apple tomorrow after the bell."

U.S. markets fell on earnings reports from Caterpillar and chipmaker Nvidia that missed analyst forecasts on softening Chinese demand. Small expects corporations to talk about how tariffs and a trade war are causing more companies to cut earnings and estimates.

"All in all I think companies are still continuing to tell us that things are not going that well and unfortunately a lot of it has to do with the US-China trade situation," Small said, adding that a threatened 25 per cent tariff on Chinese goods on March 1 would be a huge mistake.

"I think that would just basically it would kill the stock market and corporations I think would just go into hunkerdown mode."

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 208.98 points at 24,528.22. The S&P 500 index was down 20.91 points at 2,643.85, while the Nasdaq composite was down 79.18 points at 7,085.69.

Trade negotiations between the world's two largest economies are scheduled to resume later this week ahead of the Trump administration's threat to impose large tariffs on Chinese imports. After markets closed, the U.S. Justice Department filed 13 charges including bank fraud against Chinese tech giant Huawei, affiliates and a top company executive.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 12.57 points at 15,378.62, after hitting a low of 15,276.91.

It was dragged down by the industrials sector, which fell 1.55 per cent on a large pullback by SNC-Lavalin Inc. The Montreal-based engineering and construction firm's shares plummeted 27.8 per cent to the lowest level since September 2012 after warning that ongoing diplomatic tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia and problem contracts would sink its 2018 financial results.

The influential energy sector fell 0.63 per cent as crude oil price dropped on ongoing concerns about weak global economic growth and stronger U.S. production.

The March crude contract was down US$1.70 at US$51.99 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was down 19.9 cents at US$2.87 per mmBTU.

Health care led the market on increases by several cannabis companies while the materials sector rose as gold companies benefited from rising metals prices.

The February gold contract was up US$5 at US$1,305.90 an ounce and the March copper contract was down 4.9 cents at US$2.68 a pound.

The Canadian dollar traded for an average of 75.39 cents US compared with an average of 75.44 US on Friday.

The biggest gainers were Rogers Communications and Barrick Gold Corp. while Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. led on the downside.

Companies, index and currency in this story: (TSX:SNC, TSX:ABX, TSX:RCI.B, TSX:CP, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

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