TORONTO — Canada's main stock index started the week lower as it absorbed weakness in the key industrials and materials sectors driven by SNC-Lavalin woes and lower gold prices.
The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 64.48 points at 15,568.85, after hitting an intraday low of 15,545.94.
North American markets were stuck Monday between risks from trade uncertainties between the U.S. and China and the positives from U.S. corporate earnings, says Craig Fehr, a Canadian markets strategist for Edward Jones.
Investors will continue to react more to headlines, tweets and rumours about trade talks and the potential for a second U.S. government shutdown the longer the distance from corporate earnings reports, he said.
"The markets seem to be reacting in much more of a binary way which is that any whiff of rumour of some advanced talks is treated quite positively from the market and then any news or tweets related to a setback in that negotiating process has been treated rather negatively."
In Canada, earnings reports from natural resources companies is always important, but the financials sector, particularly banks that begin reporting Feb. 26, will largely determine the performance of the TSX, said Fehr.
"So I'm looking at the earnings out of the financial services sector as probably the barometer for what we can expect from the economy over the balance of the year, which I think is going to be positive but materially slower growth than we'd hoped for at this stage," he said in an interview.
Last week's strong jobs report shows that the Canadian labour market remains healthy enough to provide consumer support to stave off an outright recession this year, Fehr added.
In Monday trading on the TSX, the health care sector dropped 2.66 per cent as several cannabis producers saw their shares dip.
It was following by telecommunications, industrials and materials.
Industrials dropped as SNC-Lavalin shares decreased 7.4 per cent to $34 after the beleaguered engineering and construction firm warned that its profit for 2018 will be even lower than it cautioned in January, due to problems at a mining project in Latin America.
Materials fell on weaker metals prices. The April gold contract was down US$6.60 at US$1,311.90 an ounce on a stronger U.S. dollar. The March copper contract was down 2.05 cents at US$2.79 a pound.
The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 75.22 cents US compared with an average of 75.36 cents US on Friday.
The energy sector led the TSX, gaining 0.78 per cent despite a dip in crude oil prices because of increased production in the U.S. and higher number of rigs. Canadian Natural Resources, Enbridge Inc., Suncor Energy Inc. and Imperial Oil led the composite index while Telus Corp, Shopify Inc. and Sun Life Financial Inc. led on the downside.
The March crude contract was down 31 cents at US$52.41 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up 5.9 cents at US$2.64 per mmBTU.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 53.22 points at 25,053.11. The S&P 500 index was up 1.92 points at 2,709.80, while the Nasdaq composite was up 9.71 points at 7,307.90.
Companies, index and currency in this story: (TSX:CNQ, TSX:ENB, TSX:SU, TSX:IMO, TSX:T, TSX:SHOP, TSX:SLF, TSX:SNC, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)
Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press