Loonie hits 77 cents US, TSX slips


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North American stock markets were mixed Thursday as the loonie flirted with its highest close against the greenback in nearly five months.

The Canadian dollar finished the day at 76.80 cents US, up 0.15 of a U.S. cent from Wednesday’s close, after briefly surpassing 77 cents US earlier in the day.

The loonie hasn’t closed above the 77-cent mark since Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s S&P/TSX composite index slipped 3.28 points at 15,399.11.

The global gold segment of the TSX was in the lead, gaining 1.6 per cent, while health-care stocks were up 1.09 per cent and real estate companies advanced 0.78 per cent.

Base metals was the biggest decliner on the Toronto stock market, slipping 0.81 per cent, while the heavily weighted financials sector retreated 0.38 per cent.

In New York, markets were relatively quiet a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it would be keeping its key interest rates unchanged, as expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average gave back 6.03 points at 19,884.91 while the S&P 500 added 1.30 points at 2,280.85 points. The Nasdaq fell 6.45 points at 5,636.20.

The central bank sounded slightly more optimistic about the U.S. economy, nothing that inflation is rising and the job market is strengthening.

But it said it wanted more time to keep an eye on the economy before its next rate hike.

There is much uncertainty right now about what effect U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies on trade, tax reform and health care will have.

Ben Jang, a portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management, says investors are playing a game of “tug-of-war,” with the Fed’s rosier outlook going head-to-head with concerns about upcoming political reform.

Overall, Jang says he was surprised to see North American markets hold in given that global markets were fairly negative overnight.

Germany’s DAX gave back 0.3 per cent while the CAC 40 in France slipped 0.1 per cent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was the exception, closing 0.5 per cent higher.

“It’s a good sign to see a little bit more stability in North America,” said Jang, noting that the upcoming French election, NAFTA renegotiations and Greece’s ongoing debt crisis are injecting volatility into stock markets overseas.

“There’s a lot of mounting geopolitical risk so I think that’s caused some sell-off in global markets.”

In commodities, the March crude oil contract lost 34 cents at US$53.54 per barrel and March natural gas was up two cents at US$3.19 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract climbed US$11.10 at US$1,219.40 an ounce and March copper pulled back three cents at US$2.69 a pound.