Crude oil prices crack US$50 per barrel before losing ground

Canadian dollar gets a boost with oil prince jump

A dump truck works near the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta on Sunday June 1, 2014. The furore over a New Democrat candidate's remarks about leaving a lot of Alberta's oilsands in the ground is a reflection of how poorly the issue is understood, say energy experts. (Jason Franson/CP)

A dump truck works near the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta. (Jason Franson/CP)

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market held to a modest gain in late-day trading Thursday even as oil prices turned lower after briefly popping above US$50 a barrel.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 33.62 points at 14,087.36, its fourth consecutive increase in an advance based largely on a slow but steady rise in oil prices.

However, after going as high US$50.21 in pre-market trading, benchmark North American crude began to fade and closed down eight cents at US$49.48 a barrel. The last time West Texas Intermediate crude settled above US$50 a barrel was on July 21, when it finished at US$50.86 a barrel.

Elsewhere in commodities, July natural gas fell three cents to US$2.15 per mmBtu, while June gold gave back $3.40 to US$1,220.30 a troy ounce and July copper was unchanged at US$2.10 a pound.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.22 of a U.S. cent to 77.01 cents US, adding to Wednesday’s big gain of almost three-quarters of a cent.

South of the border, New York indexes were mixed after two day of big advances, with the Dow Jones industrials shedding 5.07 points to 17,846.44. The broader S&P 500 added 2.08 points to ,2092.62 and the Nasdaq was up 12.02 points at 4,906.91.

Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist for Northern Trust, said that after two days of hefty gains, U.S. stocks were trading more on individual news than broad trends.

Meanwhile, investors are waiting to hear remarks being delivered Friday at Harvard University by Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, that may give some insight into a possible interest rate high next month.

“Traders are unlikely to want to make big bets ahead of Yellen’s speech,” McDonald said.

Stocks have risen to some of their highest levels of 2016 as investors have been encouraged by strong monthly home sales in the U.S. and other positive economic news, including a report Thursday that new applications for unemployment benefits fell to 268,000 last week.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline suggests that companies feel comfortable enough to hold on to their workers. A separate report showed that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose in April, but a measurement of business investment fell for the third month in a row, an indication the sector is still under pressure.

In European trading, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 both gain 0.7 per cent, while Britain’s FTSE 100 edged up 0.04 per cent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.09 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.14 per cent and mainland China’s Shanghai composite gained 0.26 per cent.

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