TSX closes at two-year low on concern about slowing Chinese economy

TORONTO — Canada’s main stock index ended another losing week with the market closing at a two-year low Friday on concerns about a slowing Chinese economy that drove oil and natural gas prices lower.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down about one per cent, losing 155.28 points to 14,595.07, after reaching a 2018 intraday low of 14,567.32.

The market closed at its lowest point since November 2016, shaving one per cent off its value in the week.

North American markets responded to bearish macroeconomic data from China about lower retail sales that suggested the world’s second-largest economy was still slowing, said Steven Belisle, managing director and senior portfolio manager of Manulife Asset Management Ltd.

“It keeps confirming that the global economy is in a slowing mode which means that it’s not great for earnings, it’s not great for stocks,” he said in an interview.

A slowing Chinese economy would have severe repercussions on demand for commodities, probably requiring the Chinese government to intervene with stimulus.

“The central bank keeps saying they remain accommodative but maybe there’s more that could be done from a government perspective to help kickstart the economy,” Belisle added.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 496.87 points at 24,100.51. The S&P 500 index was down 50.40 points at 2,600.12, while the Nasdaq composite was down 159.67 points at 6,910.66.

Contributing to the Dow’s losses was a 10 per cent drop of Johnson & Johnson shares on a report that the company has known for decades that its raw talc and finished Baby Powder sometimes contained asbestos, but that the company didn’t inform regulators or the public. The company called the story “false and inflammatory.”

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 74.74 cents US compared with an average of 74.86 cents US on Thursday.

The TSX sustained a broad-based decline led by the technology sector that fell 4.9 per cent on share losses by Shopify Inc. The company’s stock closed down 12.8 per cent to $187.66 after it announced the issuance of 2.6 million shares that are expected to generate $400 million in gross proceeds.

Belisle said the Ottawa-based company is likely preparing for an acquisition and being opportunistic due to its high stock price.

Constellation Software Inc. shares closed down 3.6 per cent to $878.19 while CGI Group Inc. marked its 20th year on the New York Stock Exchange with its shares losing 1.1 per cent to $84.31 in Toronto.

The energy sector fell more than three per cent on a 2.9 per cent drop in crude prices over concerns about waning demand from China.

The January crude contract was down US$1.38 at US$51.20 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 29.7 cents at US$3.83 per mmBTU.

Metal prices also fell over demand concerns. The February gold contract was down US$6 at US$1,241.40 an ounce and the March copper contract was down 0.45 of a cent at US$2.76 a pound.

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