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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, May 9, 2013. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, May 9, 2013. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

At the open: Markets slip despite upbeat U.S. retail sales Add to ...

North American markets slipped at the open Monday amid better-than-expected U.S. retail sales figures that indicate a renewal in consumer spending.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 49.93 points to 12,539.16.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.17 of a cent to 99.06 cents US.

The U.S. commerce department reported that retail sales edged up 0.1 per cent in April, improving on the 0.5 per cent decline in March, the largest in nine months.

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Economists had expected a contraction in the figures brought on by a higher U.S. tax on Social Security that kicked in this year, but the figures increased on a boost in spending on cars and clothing.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 38.46 points to 15,080.03, the Nasdaq declined 1.74 points to 3,434.84 while the S&P 500 dipped 3.04 points to 1,630.66.

Meanwhile, a dismal performance overnight in most of Asia and Europe may be a possible signal that the record-high climbs seen last week may be coming to an end.

The world’s markets have been rallying of late, due to hopes over the U.S. economy, signs that Europe’s debt crisis is easing and continued support by the world’s leading central banks.

Many indexes, including the Dow in the U.S. and Germany’s DAX, have struck a series of all-time highs in recent weeks, while others such as Japan’s Nikkei have hit multi-year peaks.

But the markets may be set for a pullback, as prices for oil, gold and copper weakened on last week’s gains.

The June crude contract was down $1 to $95.04 a barrel. June gold bullion dropped $5.70 to $1,430.90 an ounce, while July copper dipped a penny to $3.35 a pound.

Overseas, the DAX fell 0.7 per cent to 8,222 while the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 per cent at 6,405. The CAC-40 in France was 0.5 per cent lower at 3,936.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 per cent to 5,210.30 and South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 per cent to 1,948.70. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.4 per cent to 22,989.81.

Mainland Chinese shares were mixed as government data showed slightly smaller-than-expected increases in industrial production and retail sales in April. The Shanghai composite index fell 0.2 per cent to 2,241.92. The smaller Shenzhen composite index rose 0.3 per cent to 974.20.

The main rosy story out of Asia was Japan’s stock market.

The Nikkei jumped to its highest close in more than five years after global finance leaders effectively backed the Bank of Japan’s stimulus program as a legitimate attempt by the country to get out of its two-decade era of stagnation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, elected late last year on promises to revive the world’s third-largest economy, has implemented a policy mix of increased public spending and aggressive monetary easing.

On Monday, the Nikkei rose 1.2 per cent to 14,782.21, its highest close since December 2007. The index has soared more than 42 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Japan was a main talking point at a weekend meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven leading developed economies, including Canada. All refrained from criticizing the Bank of Japan’s policy, and accepted that the motivation was to get demand growing, not to weaken the yen.

 

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