TORONTO — North American stock markets sank midweek as the hottest U.S. inflation numbers in more than 30 years had investors worrying that central banks will speed up interest rate hikes.
The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 132.59 points from its record close to end the day at 21,461.93.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 240.04 points at 36,079.94. The S&P 500 index was down 38.54 points at 4,646.71, while the Nasdaq composite was down 263.83 points at 15,622.71.
The decreases came after the American consumer price index jumped 6.2 per cent in October from a year ago. That was far above economist forecasts and marked the biggest annual increase since 1990, raising concerns interest rates could be on the rise sooner than expected.
“The concern is that central banks speed up the taper, which then will lead to raising interest rates, and the risk is that they raise interest rates too quickly and cause a policy misstep in their efforts to tackle higher inflation,” said Craig Jerusalim, portfolio manager at CIBC Asset Management.
Earlier, China said its factory gate prices hit a 26-year high in October. The producer price index (PPI) climbed 13.5 per cent from a year earlier, faster than the 10.7 per cent increase in September. Its consumer price index hit a 13-month high of 1.5 per cent.
“Those are big numbers that again lead people to worry about that inflation is not as transitory as everyone’s been led to believe,” he said in an interview.
Although central banks have described inflation as temporary, the high numbers raised concerns that the situation will last longer and that Canada’s inflation number next week will also be elevated.
“Canada is experiencing similar pressures in energy and housing and food so very similar to what we’re seeing in the U.S. and that very well may turn out to be inflationary.”
Health care, technology and energy were the biggest laggards Wednesday.
Health care lost 3.9 per cent as cannabis producers saw share losses with Tilray Inc. down 6.4 per cent and Canopy Growth Inc. off 5.9 per cent.
Bond yields rose in response to the inflation numbers. That and the prospect for higher interest rates hurt the technology sector because the value of future earnings are discounted amid higher interest rates.
The sector lost 3.1 per cent with Hut 8 Mining Corp. down 8.2 per cent, BlackBerry Ltd. off 5.8 per cent and Shopify Inc. 4.8 per cent lower.
Energy lost 2.2 per cent as crude oil prices dropped 3.3 per cent with Vermilion Energy Inc. losing 11.3 per cent.
The December crude oil contract was down US$2.81 at US$81.34 per barrel and the December natural gas contract was down 9.9 cents at US$4.88 per mmBTU.
A stronger U.S. dollar stemming from the inflation numbers and the potential for rising interest rates put pressure on commodity prices except for gold, said Jerusalim.
Companies like Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. saw its shares fall 2.3 per cent despite announcing an acquisition while other large cap, high-quality companies like Cenovus Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc. were “giving back some of their recent strong performance.”
The Canadian dollar traded for 80.31 cents US compared with 80.33 on Tuesday.
Gold prices rose partially as a hedge against inflation.
The December gold contract was up US$17.50 at US$1,848.30 an ounce and the December copper contract was down five cents at US$4.32 a pound.
Barrick Gold Corp. and Kinross Gold Corp. were among the beneficiaries as their shares climbed 4.9 and 3.7 per cent, respectively.