The Toronto stock market was deep in the red Wednesday as commodities registered steep declines as indications of slowing Chinese and American economies raised another round of demand concerns.
The S&P/TSX composite index fell 91.3 points to 12,365 as traders also took in earnings reports from the consumer and resource sectors and looked to what the U.S. Federal Reserve will have to say about the American economy at the end of its two-day interest rate meeting.
The Canadian dollar surrendered early gains and was down 0.09 of a cent to 99.17 cents US. The American currency had earlier been lower ahead of the Fed announcement. Markets have become increasingly convinced that the U.S. central bank is in no hurry to end its current stimulus programs amid a combination of low inflation and modest U.S. economic growth.
U.S. markets were also weak amid signs of tepid job growth in the United States. Payroll firm ADP released employment data that indicated another month of weak job creation. ADP said private sector job creation came in at 119,000 in April, much lower than expectations of 150,000.
The report came out two days before the release of the U.S. government’s employment report for last month. Job growth in March widely missed expectations, coming in at 88,000.
Indexes were further depressed by other data showing declining expansion in the American manufacturing sector. The Institute for Supply Management’s index stood at 50.7 in April, down from 51.3 in March.
And construction spending fell 1.7 per cent in March after rising 1.5 per cent in February.
The Dow Jones industrial average was off 47.4 points to 14,792.4, the Nasdaq composite index fell 10.75 points to 3,318.03 and the S&P 500 index gave back 4.46 points to 1,593.11.
Commodity prices also moved lower after data showed a slowdown in China’s manufacturing growth.
The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, an industry group, released data Wednesday showing that manufacturing grew at a slower pace in April and that export orders had been declining steadily. The federation’s purchasing managers’ index fell to 50.6 in April from 50.9 in March.
“The China number really put a damper on our market with respect to the commodities market again,” said Allan Small, senior adviser at DWM Securities.
“Commodities, materials are not the place to be.”
The metals and mining sector dropped 2.65 per cent as June copper fell 10 cents to $3.09 (U.S.) a pound. China is the world’s biggest consumer of the metal. First Quantum Minerals, which posts earnings Wednesday, fell 55 cents to C$17.04.
The gold sector was down about three per cent as June bullion in New York dropped $25.80 to $1,446.30 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded 93 cents to C$28.89.
The energy sector fell 1.55 per cent as the weak manufacturing data sent June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropping $2.92 to $90.54 a barrel.
Prices were further depressed after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a jump in last week’s crude supplies that was more than four times higher than expected, rising last week by 6.7 million barrels.
Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) lost 36 cents to C$29.19.
Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) posted a quarterly net loss of $213-million, or 21 cents per share, in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $291-million, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier.
The company’s cash flow fell 39 per cent to $517-million and its shares gave back 71 cents to $11.37.
The tech sector was also weak with BlackBerry (TSX:BB) down 65 cents to $15.85.
Industrials also weighed on the Toronto market with Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) down $2.51 to $123.05.
Elsewhere on the earnings front, Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) jumped $2.17, or 5.1 per cent, to $44.92 as it reported a 40 per cent increase in first-quarter net income to $171-million or 61 cents per share while revenue rose to $7.2-billion from $6.94-billion. The grocer is also increasing its quarterly dividend to 24 cents per common share from 22 cents and its stock was further boosted as it announced it plans to compete the initial public offering of its real estate investment trust in early to mid-July.
“That’s a key driver,” added Small.
“The real estate alone that their buildings sit on is worth a certain amount in terms of earnings per share.”
The Jean Coutu Group Inc. (TSX:PJC.A) earned a net profit of $53.6-million or 25 cents per share in the latest period. That was down from $62-million or 28 cents per share a year ago. Revenue at the Quebec-based operator of more than 400 franchised drug stores in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick slipped to $682.7-million from $727.2-million. Its shares declined 35 cents to $16.40.
In other corporate developments, Tim Hortons Inc. (TSX:THI) shares gained $2.27 to $56.85 after a report that U.S. investment firm Highfields Capital is pushing for changes at the chain including a big buy back of stock and a spin off of its real estate holdings.
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