TSX closes little changed despite strong February jobs data from Canada, U.S.

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Friday in the wake of Canadian and U.S. jobs reports that blew past expectations.

The S&P/TSX composite index finished the session 9.1 points higher to 12,835.61.

The weak stock market performance came at the end of a strong week where a series of all-time highs on the Dow industrials contributed to the general feel-good factor across all financial markets. However, the TSX has been hobbled this week by a drop of about 1.6 per cent in the gold sector.

The Canadian dollar got a small boost Friday from the jobs reports, gaining 0.03 of a cent to 97.17 cents US.

Statistics Canada reported that the economy created 50,700 jobs compared with the approximately 8,000 jobs that economists had expected.

The country’s unemployment rate stayed steady at seven per cent as more people entered the workforce to seek jobs. Economists had expected a small increase.

U.S. indexes were higher as the Labour Department reported that the United States cranked out 236,000 jobs — also far more than expected — pushing the U.S. unemployment rate to 7.7 per cent from 7.9 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrials racked up a fourth, straight record high close, rising 67.58 points to 14,397.07. The Nasdaq was up 12.28 points to 3,244.37 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 6.92 points to 1,551.18.

Economists had already raised their expectations for the February U.S. jobs data to 165,000 in the last couple of days in the wake of a strong reading on private sector job growth from payroll firm ADP and lower jobless insurance claims.

The jobs report strengthens the case of stock market bulls, who say the economy is gaining momentum following a long and tepid recovery after the financial crisis and Great Recession, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade in New York.

“It gives hope to those that say this rally isn’t just about the Fed, it’s about the economy recovering,” said Kinahan. “It’s giving people confidence that maybe the economy is turning the corner.”

There was also positive news from the world’s second-biggest economy.

China’s exports surged 21.8 per cent last month, well ahead of analysts’ expectations of single-digit growth as companies shut down for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Imports fell 15.2 per cent, a decline from January’s 28 per cent growth, which suggested domestic demand might be weakening, but the picture is clouded by the holiday, when companies shut down for up to two weeks.

That was the second piece of good news from China this week. China’s outgoing premier said earlier that the country would do what was necessary to achieve its target of 7.5 per cent growth this year.

Positive Chinese data usually has a positive effect on markets as the country has been instrumental in helping the global economy dig out of the deep economic downturn that followed the 2008 financial collapse.

However, commodity markets put in a mixed performance following the trade data.

The base metals sector was the strongest component, ahead 1.57 cent while May copper down one cent at US$3.51 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) ran up $1.19 to C$20.42.

The energy sector was slightly higher with the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 39 cents to US$91.95 a barrel and the energy sector was per cent. Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) gained 24 cents to C$42.64.

The TSX gold sector also eked out a small gain while April bullion gained $1.80 to US$1,576.90 an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) ran ahead 35 cents to $6.75.

Outside of resource stocks, the tech sector was lower as shares of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (TSX:MDA) fell $3.07 to $69.70 after announcing a deal to raise $250 million in an offering of shares.

The industrials sector was also negative as Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) shed $1.22 to $129.77.

Engineering firm SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) reported it had $94.6 million of net income or 63 cents per share in the fourth quarter with $2.42 billion in revenue. Analysts had estimated 90 cents per share of adjusted earnings and 92 cents per share of net income with $2.17 billion of revenue, according to figures compiled by Thomson Reuters. Its shares fell $2.84 to $43.01.

The TSX Venture Exchange was up 1.62 points to 1,117.85.

The TSX ended the week up 0.48 per cent while the Dow industrials ran ahead 2.18 per cent.

This means the Dow has more than made up the losses stemming from the 2008 financial collapse, rising over 115 per cent from the lows of March, 2009 that resulted from the financial collapse and subsequent recession.

However, the TSX is still a good 2,300 points away from the all time high of 15,073 from the summer of 2008.

A big reason is that Toronto is heavily weighted in resource stocks. They and commodity prices have had to content with a persistently weak global economy.