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S&P/TSX composite moves higher on strength of reopening sector led by energy

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TORONTO — Canada's main stock index moved higher to end a relatively flat week as sectors that rely on the economy reopening offset continued losses in technology.  

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 101.48 points to 18,752.58 after hitting an intraday low of 18,591.24 

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 453.40 points at 33,072.88. The S&P 500 index was up 65.02 points at 3,974.54, while the Nasdaq composite was up 161.05 points at 13,138.73. 

"Today is more of a reopening versus tech growth day," said Allan Small, said senior investment adviser at IA Private Wealth..

Energy led the TSX, gaining two per cent as crude oil prices rose with signs that it could be weeks before a grounded vessel in Suez Canal is freed and other large ships can traverse the key shipping routes.

Although the U.S. has become the world's largest energy producer, the Middle Eastern canal remains important for global trade.

The May crude oil contract was up US$2.41 or 4.1 per cent at US$60.97 per barrel but still ended down for a third-straight week. The May natural gas contract was up 0.3 of a cent at US$2.62 per mmBTU. 

The supply issue is up against concerns that a global spread of COVID19 variants could result in weakened energy demand. Longer term, increased vaccinations are giving hope that countries will achieve herd immunity that would prompt a return to normalcy in people's lives.

The Canadian dollar traded for 79.49 cents US compared with 79.33 cents US on Thursday. 

Canadian producers such as MEG Energy Corp. saw its shares climb 6.3 per cent, followed by a five per cent gain for Seven Generations Energy Ltd.

Materials rose 1.7 per cent on a rise in metals prices that sent Teck Resources Ltd. and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. up 5.6 and 4.9 per cent, respectively.

The April gold contract was up US$7.20 at US$1,732.30 an ounce and the May copper contract was up nine cents at US$4.07 a pound. 

Canadian banks moved up to help the financials sector with the Bank of Nova Scotia increasing 1.2 per cent.

Telecommunications, health care and technology were the three laggards on the day.

Telecommunications was down 1.7 per cent on a 3.5 per cent drop by Telus Corp., while cannabis producers Aphria Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. moved the health care sector lower.

Tech recovered near the close and fell just 0.14 per cent as shares of BlackBerry Ltd. lost three per cent and Shopify Inc. slipped a little more, a day after losing its crown as Canada's most valuable company.

North American stock markets were fairly flat on the week with the TSX down half a per cent and the Dow and S&P 500 up 1.4 and 1.6 per cent, respectively. Nasdaq was down just half a percentage point.

"I think we are relatively stagnant, holding in place right now," Small said in an interview.

Underlying the sentiment is optimism that markets will have better days ahead as the economy improves this summer.

Small said investors are putting a lot of money to work on anticipation of earning stronger returns.

A turning point, however, could come when central banks begin to tighten the hefty stimulus they put in place to keep the economy from collapsing.

Hopefully that won't be accompanied by a "taper tantrum" from investors, Small said.

In the U.S., consumers spending and personal incomes both fell sharply in February as severe winter storms disrupted shopping in many parts of the country and the government wrapped up distribution of $600 relief payments.

Consumer spending fell one per cent last month, the biggest drop since last April when spending tumbled 12.4 per cent as the country was broadsided by the global pandemic.

Consumer spending jumped 3.4 per cent in January. Personal incomes, which provide the fuel for future spending, surged 10.1 per cent the same month as the U.S. doled out $600 checks.

Concerns about inflation have been tamped down with it increasing 1.6 per cent over the 12 months ending in February, up from a 1.4 per cent gain in January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2021. 

— With files from The Associated Press.

Companies in this story: (TSX:SHOP, TSX:BB, TSX:APHA, TSX:ACB, TSX:TECK.B, TSX:FM, TSX:MEG, TSX:VII, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) 

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press