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North American markets higher as investors weigh mixed U.S. economic data

Last Updated Jun 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm EDT

The Canadian dollar was down about one-quarter of a U.S. cent ahead of trading on North American stock markets, which appeared headed for a positive open Monday. The Canadian dollar coin, the Loonie, is displayed next to the US dollar Friday, January 30, 2015 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed higher Monday amid mixed U.S. economic data and concerns about whether Greece will meet a looming payment deadline.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 60.04 points to 15,074.13 while the loonie lost 0.63 of a U.S. cent to 79.78 cents US.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 29.69 points at 18,040.37, the Nasdaq index rose 12.90 points to 5,082.93, and the S&P 500 advanced 4.34 points to 2,111.73.

Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall MacDougall & MacTier Inc., says North American markets have been trading within a fairly narrow range as investors await news regarding Greece’s debt woes and ponder when the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.

“I think there are a few things weighing on investors’ minds that causes them to sit on the sidelines,” said Nakamoto.

“People are looking to see what will happen to Greece. Some are positive that there’s going to be a last-minute deal. Others are more skeptical there’s going to be a deal. When you have the tug and pull you get a market that sort of trades within certain ranges.”

In U.S. economic news, weaker than anticipated consumer spending data in the offset positive manufacturing data for the month of April.

Nakamoto said it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Fed will hike rates in June. The earliest he expects rates to start climbing is September, though he thinks the Fed could delay until next year.

“So far, I haven’t seen any data that makes me lean towards an interest rate increase,” he said.

The consumer discretionary and health care sectors were the biggest advancers on the TSX, gaining 1.84 per cent and 1.23 per cent respectively.

The gains in the health care sector follow news that Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (TSX:VRX) surpassed Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD) last week as the second-largest company on the TSX by market capitalization.

Shares of Valeant closed $3.64, or 1.23 per cent, higher at $300.08.

Nakamoto said investors are split on whether Valeant’s recent stock price gains are an ominous sign foretelling of an impending crash or the first of many more upward moves.

“When something rises so quickly, like Research in Motion or Nortel … oftentimes it can be a flash in the pan,” Nakamoto said. “I know cynics out there will say that.”

The company has been growing rapidly through a serious of acquisitions.

“They buy various companies that are accretive to earnings, and the market seems to like it,” Nakamoto said.

Meanwhile, on the commodity markets, the July crude contract was down 10 cents at US$60.20 a barrel and the August gold contract slipped $1.10 to US$1,188.70 an ounce.

Follow @alexposadzki on Twitter.

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