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North American stock markets virtually unchanged, Canadian dollar drops

North American stock markets virtually unchanged, Canadian dollar drops

TORONTO — North American stocks ended the week virtually flat in Friday trading with Canada's main stock index getting a lift primarily from cannabis stocks that offset weakness in energy and materials.

Nothing really critical came out of U.S. markets on Friday, as stronger consumer spending in July and August was muted by Chinese trade tariff comments from U.S. President Donald Trump, said Patrick Blais, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

"It's a little bit more of a stable environment today, so no clear direction in terms of just market-moving news," he said in an interview.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 8.68 points to 26,154.67. The S&P 500 index was up 0.8 points to 2,904.98, while the Nasdaq composite was off 3.67 points to 8,010.04.

Some reports issued Friday were supportive of the continued strength of the U.S. economy, he said. Even though August retail sales were a little weaker, an upward revision in July numbers pointed to strong consumer spending in the two summer months.

That reinforces expectations that the Federal Reserve will probably raise interest rates twice during the remainder of the year and at a more aggressive pace than in Canada, helping the U.S. greenback, said Blais.

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 76.73 cents US compared with an average of 76.94 cents US on Thursday.

"So put that together and no more news on the NAFTA front and it's normal to see a little bit of a stall or just a little bit of a pullback on the Canadian dollar," said Blais.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 11.78 points to 16,013.49, down a half a per cent from the 16,090.27 closing a week earlier.

Cannabis company Aphria Inc. had the biggest gain on the day, closing up 13 per cent, while Alacer Gold Corp. led on the downside, falling 4.5 per cent.

The pot-heavy health-care sector closed up 3.75 per cent on the day, following by base metals. Consumer staples was weakest, falling 0.8 per cent on decreases by Canada's grocery chains. Materials, gold, energy and telecom also lost ground on the day.

The October crude contract was up 40 cents at US$68.99 per barrel, nearly two per cent higher from a week ago.

The October natural gas contract was down five cents at $2.77 per mmBTU.

The December gold contract was down US$7.10 to US$1,201.10 an ounce and the December copper contract was down 3.7 cents at US$2.65 a pound.

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press