Financial numbers flow on the digital ticker tape at the TMX Group in Toronto's financial district on May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

North American stock markets plunge on rising COVID-19 cases and crude oil price drop

North American stock markets plunge on rising COVID-19 cases and crude oil price drop

TORONTO — Canadian and U.S markets experienced a broad-based decline Monday as concerns around rising COVID-19 cases and dropping oil prices led Canada’s main stock index to dip to its lowest level since May.

Craig Fehr, an investment strategist with Edward Jones, said rising case counts for the Delta variant of the coronavirus are sparking concerns that a budding economic recovery may not be as smooth as once expected.

“It’s a tough start to the week,” he said, saying the effect of COVID-19 both in North America and the world has once again created concerns in markets.

“(The Delta variant) is the key driver in the weakness in the markets and it’s being exacerbated by the strike we’re seeing in equities,where we’re getting down days that are feeding on themselves.”

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 259.09 points at 19,726.45.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 725.81 points at 33,962.04. The S&P 500 index was down 68.67 points at 4,258.49, while the Nasdaq composite was down 152.26 points at 14,274.98.

Fehr said the energy-heavy TSX was further hit by steep declines in oil prices today, which were a result of a recent deal to increase production by the OPEC plus group to increase productions.

He said demand for the commodity also faces some uncertainty, as an increase in COVID-19 cases could lead to lower sales of gasoline.

The September crude oil contract was down US$5.21 at US$66.35 per barrel and the August natural gas contract was up 10.5 cents at US$3.79 per mmBTU.

The Canadian dollar also took a hit, trading at 78.38 cents US compared with 79.41 cents US on Friday.

Fehr said the decline in the loonie was directly tied to the drop in oil prices, but also stemmed from a “sizeable” drop in bond yields.

Despite Monday being a rocky day for North American markets, Fehr said the long-term outlook for this year and 2022 looks good.

However, he said people should be aware that there will be more fluctuations in the market as we move forward, similar to today’s losses.

“By and large, this fundamental backdrop of monetary policy support, a growing economy and rising corporate profits remains a strong foundational support for equities,” said Fehr.

“But that won’t save the stock market every single day, and this is a great example of that.”

Fehr added that today’s market reaction to rising COVID-19 counts shows there could be a shift in the attitude from the U.S. Federal Reserve around monetary policy moving forward, although it’s too early to say.

“This is a bit of a reminder that the pandemic is over, but I don’t think this alters the longer term story just given the economy is on sound footing.”

Meanwhile in other commodities, the August gold contract was down US$5.80 at US$1,809.20 an ounce and the September copper contract was down 12 cents at US$4.20 a pound.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD)

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press