TSX ends flat amid Ukraine fears, upbeat U.S. data

Thu Mar 27, 2014 4:33pm EDT
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By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended little changed on Thursday after worries about the Ukraine crisis overshadowed positive economic signals from the United States.

The index's energy and materials groups rose on higher prices for some commodities, but shares of banks and insurers declined.

A government report showed that fourth-quarter U.S. economic growth was faster than previously estimated, and separate data indicated that new applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to a near four-month low.

Worries about the crisis in Ukraine continued to nag at the market, however. Ukraine has won an IMF-linked $27-billion international financial lifeline, it was announced on Thursday, while Moscow's economy minister warned of slowing growth in Russia.

"Notwithstanding these geopolitical risks, the market continues to be driven by monetary policy," said Vincent Delisle, a managing director and investment strategist at Scotiabank, referring to the U.S. Federal Reserve's stimulus program.

"The first-quarter numbers in the U.S. have been dismissed by the Fed and by investors and blamed on the weather," he said. "I would agree with that."

Delisle is optimistic about the prospects for the Canadian equity market, which underperformed the S&P 500 .SPX in 2013.

"It's definitely a year when the TSX comes very close to the S&P 500 in terms of market returns, in contrast to last year."   Continued...

A Bay Street sign, a symbol of Canada's economic markets and where main financial institutions are located, is seen in Toronto, May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch