TORONTO — Canada's main stock index climbed higher in light trading on Thursday, as materials stocks benefited from a slight uptick in gold and copper prices.
The S&P/TSX composite index was up 38.27 points at 17,351.34. But trading volume was just shy of 97.5 million, below the 236 million shares that change hands on average.
The increase came as U.S. stock markets were closed for the Thanksgiving Day holiday. The Canadian dollar traded for 76.85 cents US compared with 76.91 cents US on Wednesday.
"It's not unusual for Canada to just have a quiet day when the when the United States is closed, and that's kind of what we're seeing on an overall basis today," said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.
Cieszynski noted that prices for base and precious metals have been picking up, helping the materials sector, which includes shares of mining companies.
The February gold contract was up US$3 at US$1,814.20 an ounce and the March copper contract was almost 4.9 cents at nearly US$3.38 a pound. Shares in the sector rose 1.23 per cent on Thursday, although futures contracts only traded half the day.
"With gold, it's a case of the selling pressure easing," said Cieszynski, noting that it has not been an easy month for the precious metal, which can be seen by some investors as a safe investment in times of uncertainty.
"Gold and silver have been under a lot of pressure, because capital has been leaving defensive havens. Investor confidence has improved quite dramatically as we've seen with the TSX rally, and U.S. indexes like the Dow trading at all time highs," Cieszynski added. "Fear has been going down, and capital has been coming in precious metals."
Copper, meanwhile, is one commodity that has prices sensitive to investor sentiment about the economy, Cieszynski said.
"Positive news related to vaccines has been mounting over the last few weeks," said Cieszynski. "Copper and lumber are used in a wide variety of applications across the economy. So they are commodities that see demand increase when the economy's doing well."
Healthcare stocks rose more than one per cent on Thursday, and technology shares rose one per cent. Shares of Lightspeed POS hit a new high after news it had closed its deal to buy ShopKeep Inc.
Another sector that has had a good run this month has been energy, Cieszynski said, although shares fell less than half a per cent on Thursday.
The January crude contract was down 72 cents at US$44.99 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 3.4 cents US at nearly US$2.93 per mmBTU after an abbreviated trading day.
Cieszynski noted that investors will be watching an upcoming meeting of some oil producing countries, including the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which could yield news about the global oil supply in the new year.
"Energy is one of those areas that had been pretty depressed, relative to other parts of the market, even as recently as the beginning of this month. And energy has picked up dramatically lately. People have been looking and thinking well, if vaccines come, then the economy can recover in the longer term," Cieszynski said.
Also on the radar are upcoming shopping holidays Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as the quarterly reports from Canadian banks next week, including what the banks say about dividends, trading operations and bad debt.
"Since (banks) have a finger in every pie, what are they seeing happening with the pulse of the economy?," said Cieszynski. "That should give us a better idea on where they see strengths and weaknesses within the Canadian economy."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.
Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X, TSX:LSPD)
Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press