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North American stock markets surge on liquidity injection from central banks

TORONTO — North American stock markets surged for the first time since the start of the coronavirus following hefty liquidity injections from the world's largest central banks.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 132.97 points at 17,512.73 after hitting an intraday high of 17,548.80.

Investors realize that the coronavirus risks haven't quite peaked, said Craig Jerusalim, portfolio manager at CIBC Asset Management.

"But investors are applauding the injection of liquidity from central banks and really looking forward to the stimulus measures that are going to be taken by China. And so far China hasn't pulled out any punches," he said in an interview.

China has allocated close to US$300 billion so far to stimulate markets, prevented short-selling on their markets and some of the large funds have stopped outright selling unless it's specifically for liquidation needs, he said.

"A rebound in the Chinese stocks is having a halo effect globally in anticipation that that will continue."

In addition, the U.S. Federal Reserve provided one of its largest single-day supports and the European Central Bank also stepped in.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 407.82 points at 28,807.63. The S&P 500 index was up 48.67 points at 3,297.59, while the Nasdaq composite was up 194.57 points or 2.1 per cent at 9,467.97 after hitting a record high in earlier trading.

The Canadian dollar hit its lowest level in two months, trading for 75.31 cents US compared with an average of 75.33 cents US on Monday.

The TSX enjoyed a broad-based rally with eight of its 11 major sectors gaining. It was led by health care, technology and industrials.

Health care rose 2.4 per cent with Aurora Cannabis Inc. shares gaining 6.5 per cent. Tilray Inc. also confirmed that it was laying off 10 per cent of its workforce to cut costs.

Technology was up 1.9 per cent with Shopify Inc. gaining 3.4 per cent. Technology was very strong in the U.S. despite Alphabet Inc. dropping on weak quarterly results as Tesla shares soared nearly 14 per cent after hitting a record high.

Industrials was up with shares of Bombardier Inc. gaining nearly 18 per cent following a Wall Street Journal report that it was in talks with Cessna jets maker Textron Inc. to sell its business jet operations.

Toronto-Dominion and the Royal Bank gained 1.75 and 1.7 per cent respectively to push the heavyweight financials sector higher on renewed confidence from the liquidity infusion and the sector's relatively cheap share prices.

Energy rose despite crude oil prices falling below the US$50 per barrel threshold on ongoing concerns about demand from China.

The March crude contract was down 50 cents at US$49.61 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up 5.3 cents at US$1.87 per mmBTU.

"Investors are waiting to see what additional measures OPEC plus Russia are going to take on the supply side to help offset some of the demand destruction due to the coronavirus out of China," said Jerusalim.

Materials and utilities were lower with Eldorado Gold shares losing more than nine per cent as gold prices fell.

The April gold contract was down US$26.90 at US$1,555.50 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 3.5 cents at US$2.54 a pound.

The lack of results from the Iowa caucuses had many people scratching their heads and gave U.S. President Donald Trump an opportunity to criticize Democrats ahead of his State of the Union speech.

"I think equity markets are just fine with the outcome largely because the extreme progressive candidates didn't receive any boost whatsoever from this initial caucus so markets were taking that in stride."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ELD, TSX:BBD.B, TSX:TD, TSX:RY, TSX:SHOP, TSX:ACB, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press