TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed little changed Wednesday, leaving the TSX with a respectable gain for the year, even as oil prices resumed their decline amid weak Chinese manufacturing data.
The S&P/TSX composite index finished the session 7.6 points lower at 14,632.44, meaning the TSX ended 2014 with a gain of seven per cent, down from a gain of almost 10 per cent in 2013.
The Canadian dollar closed up 0.05 of a cent at 86.2 cents US.
New York indexes piled up losses late in the session as the Dow Jones industrials tumbled 160 points to 17,823.07, while the S&P 500 index dropped 21.45 points to 2,058.9 and the Nasdaq gave back 41.39 points to 4,736.05.
The TSX advance for 2014 is about half of what it had racked up by mid-summer, supported by a huge run-up in the energy sector as crude prices came close to the US$110 a barrel level.
Since then, oil prices have collapsed — they’re down more than 50 per cent from June partly because of lower demand from weaker economies in China and Europe. But analysts say the major issue is one of supply, made worse by OPEC’s refusal last month to cut production in order to support prices.
The energy sector has fallen more than 20 per cent this year as investors wonder how low oil prices can go.
Miners have also been a major weight with the base metals group down 14 per cent this year.
Bright spots include financials, up nine per cent on the year.
But the best performers are those sectors benefiting from much lower gasoline prices and a Canadian dollar depressed by falling oil prices. These include the consumer discretionary sector, up 26 per cent, and consumer staples, which has run ahead 46 per cent. Industrials have also been a major winner, up 17 per cent.
“I think these parts of the market may not do as well (next year) as they did in 2014 because they did extremely well,” said Macan Nia, director, portfolio advisory group at Manulife Asset Management.
“You need to temper expectations but there are parts of the TSX that are not energy/materials related and they have very good business prospects, given a low Canadian dollar and also improving global economic environment and even a very strong U.S. environment.”
U.S. markets had a better year with the Dow up 7.5 per cent, the Nasdaq ahead 13.4 per cent and the S&P 500 gaining 11.4 per cent, even as the Federal Reserve wrapped up its massive program of buying bonds that has helped keep long-term interest rates low.
On Wednesday, oil and metal prices declined after a survey of Chinese manufacturers found activity contracted in December. HSBC’s monthly purchasing managers’ index crossed the 50 threshold, indicating contraction, falling to 49.6.
The February crude contract in New York dropped $1.19 to a fresh 5 1/2 year low of US$52.93 a barrel, and the TSX energy sector moved down 0.06 per cent.
Prices failed to respond to data showing a sharper than expected drawdown of U.S. crude oil inventories last week. The Energy Information Administration says inventories declined by 1.8 million barrels to 385.5 million barrels. Analysts had expected a decline of 1.25 million barrels for the week.
“The difficulty with this drop in the price is that historically, when oil has dropped, it has been on demand,” added Nia.
“And the fear is, among pundits, is — does this drop highlight some underlying weakness in the global economy.”
At the same time, Nia observes there are no indicators that the United States, the world’s biggest economy, is slowing.
“So we think that it has to do more with a supply issue than a demand issue.”
The gold sector was down 0.2 per cent as February bullion fell $15.40 to US$1,185 an ounce.
Financials were also a drag, down 0.1 per cent.
March copper gave back three cents to US$2.83 a pound, but the base metals sector rose 0.44 per cent.
Outside of the resource sectors, the TSX was supported Wednesday by consumer staples, up 0.65 per centr.
Stocks to watch included Bombardier Inc. The transport giant has inked a deal to sell five Q400 NextGen aircraft for US$160 million to airline leasing company GE Capital Aviation Services. That came on top of Tuesday’s announcement of $1 billion or more in aircraft sales, involving regional and business jets. Bombardier shares gained seven cents to $4.15.