S&P/TSX composite has best day in 10 months after plunging due to COVID worries

·3 min read

TORONTO — Canada's main stock index climbed nearly 1.5 per cent on its best day in 10 months amid a broad-based rally with strength in financials despite uncertainty about the latest COVID-19 variant.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 297.43 points to 20,762.03 for its strongest performance since Feb. 1.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 617.75 points or 1.8 per cent at 34,639.79. The S&P 500 index was up 64.06 points at 4,577.10, while the Nasdaq composite was up 127.27 points at 15,381.32.

Markets bounced back strongly from Wednesday when the first confirmed U.S. case of the Omicron variant caused an afternoon collapse.

"The down days are headline news induced, the up days seem to be more fundamentally induced," said Kevin Headland, co-chief investment strategist at Manulife Investment Management.

He said the COVID variant will remain a concern until there is concrete information from vaccine manufacturers. However, initial information suggests that those who are vaccinated face mild symptoms.

"There was a knee-jerk reaction to the announcement of new cases," he said in an interview.

Headland said the fundamentals remain quite strong with companies that beat estimates being rewarded while headline news resulting in a "short-term hiccup."

None of the 11 major sectors lost ground on the TSX Thursday with nine exceeding one per cent gains and four above two per cent.

The heavyweight financials sector which accounts for about 30 per cent of the Toronto market increased 2.2 per cent.

Toronto-Dominion Bank led the way, gaining 4.9 per cent after reporting strong quarterly results that beat expectations and raising its dividend.

"Even other banks that perhaps sold off after their earnings, notably Royal Bank, they're rallying again as well today," said Headland.

"I think there's good guidance for that sector going forward, especially with the expectation of dividend increases and share buybacks resuming now that OSFI has taken away the moratorium that was in place during COVID crisis."

Consumer discretionary, consumer staples and health care led the way.

Energy climbed 1.4 per cent as crude oil prices rallied after recent weakness, with shares of Imperial Oil and Vermilion Energy Corp. up 4.1 and 3.9 per cent, respectively.

The January crude oil contract was up 93 cents at US$66.50 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 20.2 cents at nearly US$4.06 per mmBTU.

"The recent drop was overdone when we think about supply-demand fundamentals," he said.

OPEC and its allies confirmed on Thursday that it would stick to its plan of adding 400,000 barrels per day in January.

Headland said there was no expectation that OPEC+ would open its spigots because cartel members are happy with US$80 per barrel oil prices.

Still, the Canadian dollar fell to its lowest level in 10 weeks, trading for 78.03 cents US compared with 78.27 cents US on Wednesday.

Materials was unchanged with the February gold contract was down US$21.60 at US$1,762.70 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 5.2 cents at US$4.30 a pound.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:IMO, TSX:VET, TSX:TD, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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