North American equity markets soar despite Paris violence, weak manufacturing

TORONTO – North American stock markets closed sharply higher Monday, with traders seemingly undeterred by last week’s terrorist violence in France and disappointing manufacturing reports on both sides of the border.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index soared 242.10 points to 13,317.52, helped largely by a rebound in the price of oil.

The TSX capped energy sector was up 4.3 per cent as the December contract for benchmark crude oil rose $1 to US$41.74 a barrel, while December natural gas added 2.4 cents to US$2.39 per mmBtu.

Elsewhere on commodity markets, December gold gained $2.70 to US$1,083.60 an ounce, while December copper shed five cents to US$2.12 a pound.

The Canadian dollar was off 0.04 of a U.S. cent at 75.05 cents U.S.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrials gained 237.77 points to 17,483.01, while the broader S&P 500 index added 30.15 points to 2,053.19 and the Nasdaq advanced 56.73 points to 4,984.62.

For the most part, investors appeared to be betting that Friday’s attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people, won’t have a meaningful long-term impact on the global economy.

“I think people generally thought that we would be under pressure,” said Andrew Pyle, senior adviser and portfolio manager, Scotia Wealth Management.

“Although statistically and historically most of the market knew that it wasn’t going to be a massive correction,” he added.

While those expectations never really developed, there are still several lingering questions for traders, including expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to raise its benchmark interest rate next month.

“We’re still dealing with the overhang of uncertainty going into December,” Pyle said.

In economic news, Statistics Canada reported Monday that manufacturing sales tumbled 1.5 per cent in September following a 0.6 per cent drop in August, much worse than consensus expectations for a 0.1 per cent gain.

And the New York Federal Reserve’s Empire State manufacturing index showed factory output contracted for a fourth consecutive month in November as manufacturers continued to battle a strong U.S. dollar and slow overseas growth. The index was at a minus 10.7 for the month, a slight improvement from minus 11.4 in October.

In corporate news, Marriott International is buying rival hotel chain Starwood for US$12.2 billion in cash and stock. If completed, the deal would make Marriott the world’s largest hotelier by a wide margin.

Shares of helicopter services company HNZ Group (TSX:HNZ.A) hit a nearly six-year low Monday after the company announced it will suspend its monthly dividend starting next year as it deals with a slowdown in the resource sector, a key customer for the company.

HNZ Group stock dropped to $10 in early trading on the TSX, representing a 28 per cent decline from Friday’s close — the lowest level since February 2010. The stock later regained a bit of ground, closing at $12.

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