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TSX unchanged on modest Chinese data

MEDA 2014-09-23-TSXUnchangedOnModestChineseData(header)

By Linda Nguyen

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The Toronto stock market was barely changed at the close Tuesday amid a mixed outlook on global manufacturing from some of the world’s largest economies.

The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 3.33 points to 15,125.67, while the loonie lost 0.31 of a cent to 90.34 cents (U.S.) following disappointing economic news in Canada.

Statistics Canada reported retail sales slipped 0.1 per cent in July to $42.5 billion, well short of the 0.5 per cent gain that economists had expected, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Meanwhile, U.S. markets were down sharply after the American military launched overnight airstrikes against Islamic State military strongholds in Syria and Iraq. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 116.81 points to 17,055.87, while the Nasdaq dropped 19 points to 4,508.69 and the S&P 500 index lost 11.52 points to 1,982.77.

In economic news, the latest reading on Chinese manufacturing came in better than expected and eased some concerns that growth has stalled in the world’s second-largest economy.

The HSBC manufacturing survey for September came in at 50.5, up from 50.2 in August. Anything above 50 indicates an expansion. Analysts had expected it to fall for a second month.

The Chinese data helped boost commodity markets. December gold, considered a safe haven during volatile times, was up $4.10 to $1,222 (U.S.) an ounce as the gold sector on the TSX led advancers, up 2.76 per cent after two days of losses. The November crude contract rose 69 cents to $91.56 (U.S.) a barrel. December copper was unchanged at $3.04 (U.S.) a pound.

There wasn’t the same kind of relief in Europe, where more signs indicated that the 18-country eurozone economy hasn’t found renewed momentum despite stimulus measures from the European Central Bank.

In its monthly survey, financial information company Markit said its purchasing managers’ index for the eurozone — a closely watched gauge of business activity — fell to a nine-month low of 52.3 in September from the previous month’s 52.5. The crisis in Ukraine and the sanctions between the West and Russia as well as a general sense of pessimism about the eurozone economy were cited as reasons.

“The recovery in Europe is on weak footing,” said Ben Jang, a portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

“Any news like this will cause more volatility in the market. It’s also scaling back market sentiment in terms of how strong growth will be. We’re looking at a slower growth environment across the board.”

Jang said new measures by the Obama administration also weighed on markets, with investors unsure of what the regulations will spell for American and European companies in the future.

Washington announced a “tax inversion” regulation as part of its effort to crack down on American companies that seek to reincorporate overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The new regulations, which are now in effect, bars some techniques used by companies reduce their taxes.

“The action of the Treasury was more aggressive and more sweeping than most people had though,” he said. “(But) It didn’t address everything and it’s not comprehensive reform. It also didn’t address the larger underlying issue, where corporate taxes are too high in the U.S. and they’ll eventually need to come down.”