TSX jumps 155 points, traders look to Federal Reserve for guidance on rates

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market surged more than 150 points Wednesday as the TSX continued its recovery from the worst of this month’s sell-off.

The S&P/TSX composite index ran ahead 155.25 points to 14,624.25 in a broad-based advance. The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.54 of a cent at 89.52 cents US.

U.S. markets also racked up strong gains amid a strong reading on U.S. consumer confidence.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index jumped to 94.5, much higher than the 87 reading that economists expected.

The Dow Jones industrials was up 187.81 points to 17,005.75, the Nasdaq gained 78.36 points to 4,564.29 and the S&P 500 index climbed 23.42 points to 1,985.05.

The move higher on the market came ahead of the latest interest rate announcement from the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday.

The Fed meeting comes as the central bank’s key stimulus program — its massive bond purchases designed to keep long-term rates low — is set to wind up at the end of this month.

Traders will be looking for reassurance that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates from near zero. They will be looking to see that the Fed intends to leave the benchmark rate low for a “considerable period” after quantitative easing ends.

There have been concerns over how the markets, and the U.S. economy, will fare without the prop from the Fed that also encouraged investors to buy into stocks as returns on other securities were so small in comparison.

The TSX has been grinding higher since hitting the worst of the October sell-off when it was down about 12 per cent from its highs of the year. It’s now down about 6.5 per cent from its peak, leaving the Toronto market up about 7.4 per cent year to date.

Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets, doesn’t think it will get much better on the TSX this year.

“If there are two words that describe the rest of the year in Canada (it’s) treading water,” Belski said, with the energy sector under renewed pressure after Goldman Sachs released a report Monday saying it expects oil prices to tumble into the next year as shale gas production grows and oil supply outstrips demand.

“We have to understand that lower oil prices or even flat oil prices are probably more of a reality going forward.”

The energy sector was up 2.1 per cent after losing three per cent Monday in the wake of the Goldman Sachs report. The December crude oil contract gained 42 cents to US$81.42 a barrel.

The base metals sector gained 2.6 per cent as copper prices rose three cents to US$3.09 a pound.

Financials were up 0.8 per cent.

The gold sector edged up about 1.1 per cent as the December bullion contract inched up a dime to US$1,229.40 an ounce.

Among the latest batch of corporate earnings, after the close Facebook reported adjusted earnings came in at 43 cents a share against the 40 cents that analysts had forecast but its stock dipped 2.5 per cent in after-market trading.

Twitter posted adjusted earnings of one cent a share, matching expectations. But investors concerned about user growth and holiday-quarter revenue sent the stock tumbling almost 10 per cent.