TSX moves lower, energy stocks weigh as traders mull possibility of OPEC cut

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed lower Wednesday, pulled down in part by energy stocks ahead of a key OPEC meeting.

The S&P/TSX composite index declined 35.24 points to 15,038.41.

The energy sector fell 2.3 per cent as oil dropped another 40 cents to a four-year low of US$73.69 a barrel.

The meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday has been described as the most important gathering of cartel oil ministers in many years. Prices have tumbled to around US$75 a barrel because of a stronger U.S. dollar, lower demand and much higher supplies.

Traders hope the cartel will come to an agreement to cut production in order to support prices that are down about 30 per cent from mid-summer.

However, there is plenty of doubt about whether the cartel will come to such a deal. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, said he believes the crude market will “stabilize itself.”

Some analysts suggest it doesn’t matter what OPEC decides.

“If there is a cut, it won’t matter, they’ll cheat — they cheat all the time,” said John Stephenson, president and CEO of Stephenson and Co.

“They all cheat for the same basic reason, which is that you can and because it’s in your interest to cheat because your share of profits is directly proportional to what you pump. So why not pump the most and make it someone else’s problem?”

Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar climbed 0.13 of a cent to 89 cents US.

American markets were higher ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday when they will be closed. The Dow Jones industrials was up 12.81 points at 17,827.75, the Nasdaq gained 29.07 points to 4,787.32 and the S&P 500 index edged up 5.8 points to 2,072.83.

Elsewhere on the TSX, the base metals sector declined 1.4 per cent as March copper fell two cents to US$2.96 a pound.

February bullion faded 30 cents to US$1,197.50 an ounce and the gold sector fell about two per cent.

Gainers were led by telecoms and financials.

In U.S. economic news, durable goods orders put in a much better than expected showing in October, rising by 0.4 per cent versus an expected 0.6 per cent drop.

The U.S. Commerce Department also said consumer spending rose 0.2 per cent last month. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 per cent of American economic activity.

Other data showed that U.S. new home sales edged up 0.7 per cent in October to the fastest pace since May.

In earnings news, farm equipment maker Deere & Co. says its sales and profits will keep falling in its new fiscal year as the sector remains weak. Deere also said it earned $649.2 million, or $1.83 per share, in the fourth quarter on US$8.97 billion in revenue. Analysts had expected a profit of $1.57 per share and US$7.73 billion in revenue. Its shares were down almost one per cent.