TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian stocks stumbled on Thursday as gold prices skidded after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered no hints further stimulus was imminent, halting a rally fueled by a surprise interest rate cut in China.
Gold tumbled as the comments by Bernanke prompted investors to unwind bullish bets on expected easing after last week’s dismal U.S. jobs report.
“Bernanke didn’t give the green light towards quantitative easing, a factor that would’ve supported gold,” said Fergal Smith, managing market strategist at Action Economics. “That’s been a disappointment for folks who are long gold.”
Bullion was hit especially hard as it has been heavily used by institutional investors to hedge against the economic uncertainties brought by monetary easing.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended the day down 41.28 points, or 0.35 percent, at 11,592.12, but most of its key subsectors were higher.
Plunging gold stocks mainly kept the broader index under pressure and from keeping pace with gains in overseas markets.<MKTS/GLOB>
Barrick’s (ABX.TO) shed 4.2 percent at C$39.79 after the surprising ouster of Chief Executive Aaron Regent on Wednesday raised more questions than it answered for anxious investors.
Earlier, the main stock index had risen as high as 11,727.58, its strongest level since May 11, as China delivered twin surprises on interest rates, cutting borrowing costs to combat faltering growth while giving banks additional flexibility to set competitive lending and deposit rates.
Given weak U.S. data and troubles in Europe, there has been rising speculation of more stimulus measures from global central banks.
“It shows the Chinese authorities recognize that the slowdown in China has gone far enough,” said Gavin Graham, president at Graham Investment Strategy.
“That means there’s likely to be an increase in demand for commodities and an increase in demand for the Chinese domestic economy, which will help world trade and therefore commodity-based, resource-based markets like Canada.”
Yogawear retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc LLL.TO plummeted 8.8 percent at C$65.75 after its said that inventories rose and sales growth in established stores would slow.
Editing by Andrew Hay