Declining commodity prices push TSX lower; New York indexes rise on jobs report

TORONTO – Declining commodity prices pushed the Toronto stock market to a lower close Friday, even as solid U.S. jobs data boosted stocks south of the border.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index lost 53.92 points to 13,440.44, led by the energy sector, which slipped 2.6 per cent.

The commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar also declined, slipping 0.16 of a U.S. cent to 76.84 cents US.

The May contract for benchmark North American crude fell $1.55 to US$36.79 a barrel on the heels of comments by officials in Saudi Arabia, who said they would only freeze oil output if other major producers, including Iran, also agree to do so.

June gold fell $12.10 to US$1,223.50 a troy ounce, May copper shed two cents to US$2.16 a pound and May natural gas was unchanged at US$1.96 per mmBtu.

Despite the dip in the price of gold, the metals and mining sector of the TSX was up 1.33 per cent, while global gold stocks climbed 0.78 per cent and the materials sector rose 0.53 per cent.

The situation south of the border was a little rosier, with all of the main New York indexes higher after the U.S. government reported that private employers added 215,000 jobs in March, slightly more than expected.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 107.66 points at 17,792.75, while the broader S&P 500 added 13.04 points to 2,072.78 and the Nasdaq composite rose 44.69 points to 4,914.54.

In other economic news, U.S. manufacturing expanded in March, ending a five-month streak of declining factory activity. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index rose to 51.8 last month from 49.5 in February. Any reading above 50 signals growth.

John Wilson, senior portfolio manager at Sprott Asset Management, said that despite the positive economic news, the U.S. Federal Reserve has now made it clear that it is unlikely to hike its benchmark interest rates until the global economy improves.

“It now looks like the Fed is willing to let the economy get going very strongly before they do anything,” Wilson said.

“I think it is likely that any increase they do is farther out now and less frequent than what I might have thought even a week ago.”

In corporate news, smartphone maker BlackBerry (TSX:BB) reported disappointing quarterly results, with sales that fell far short of estimates. Its stock was down 80 cents or 7.6 per cent at $9.74.

Overseas trading saw a dismal end to the week.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX lost 1.7 per cent, France’s CAC-40 tumbled 1.43 per cent and Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.47 per cent.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 sank 3.6 per cent and China’s main Shanghai composite slid 0.19 per cent.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story: A previous version had an incorrect closing figure for the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index.