North American markets mixed, Nasdaq hits new record, loonie rises slightly

TORONTO – Most North American markets ended slightly in the red Friday following disappointing U.S. economic news, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq eked out a small gain to hit a new record high.

The S&P/TSX composite index lost 48.61 points to 14,747.45, led by energy companies, which were up 0.53 per cent on higher benchmark crude prices.

The health-care sector was the lead decliner on the TSX, slipping 4.95 per cent as Concordia International (TSX:CXR) announced it’s suspending its dividend and writing down the value of two of its products due to competition from generic drugs.

The Oakville, Ont.-based health-care company saw its stock plunge 39.09 per cent, or $8.31, to $12.95 at the close.

The TSX’s metals and mining sector lost 2.65 per cent, while base metals stocks lost 2.62 per cent.

The Canadian dollar was at 77.15 cents US, up 0.11 of a cent from Thursday’s close.

South of the border, the Dow Jones industrial average fell by 37.05 points at 18,576.47, the broader S&P 500 composite index slipped 1.74 points to 2,184.05, and the Nasdaq composite added 4.49 points to 5,232.89.

The market declines came after a new spate of data showing that retail sales were weaker than expected and producer prices saw a sharp decline last month.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that consumers spent less on groceries, clothing, electronics, appliances and sporting goods, though the declines were offset by an increase in auto sales.

“I think the consumer is OK, but what are they doing?” said Susan Da Sie, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

“They’re buying houses, they’re buying cars. Maybe they’re buying more high-priced goods because interest rates are very, very low. They’re not in the department stores buying clothes.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department reported that producer prices saw a big drop last month — the largest since September — on the back of energy, clothing and food prices.

“The markets have done really well and people are just taking some money off the table,” said Da Sie.

“I think the little bit of a decline that we see today is just noise. There’s nothing really going on … the little bit of a correction we’re seeing today is a normal little pause in what seems to be this march upwards.”

In commodity news, the September crude contract was up $1.00 at US$44.49 per barrel and September natural gas climbed 3.5 cents to US$2.59 per mmBTU.

The December gold contract gave back $6.80 to US$1,343.20 an ounce and September copper contracts lost five cents at US$2.14 a pound.

—With files from the Associated Press.

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