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Toronto stock market gets pre-Christmas lift in quiet day of trading

TORONTO — Canada's main stock index showed some pre-Christmas spirit Tuesday, with a modest gain and a record close ahead of a two-day holiday.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 51.44 points at 17,180.15 at 1 p.m.

Strength came from the gold stocks, as futures prices for bullion rose. The February gold contract gained $15.40 to US$1,504.10 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 1.7 cents at US$2.826 a pound.

Barrick Gold Corp. closed at $24.11, up 77 cents or 3.3 per cent.

Among the biggest percentage gains Tuesday, was Conifex Timber Inc. on news that it will sell three sawmills in Florida and Arkansas for US$163 million cash. Conifex shares closed at 76 cents, up 44 cents or 138 per cent.

Shares of Resolute Forest Products Inc., which is buying the Conifex mills to bolster its presence in the U.S. South, gained 25 cents or 6.4 per cent to $4.19.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. shares fell, with some of the heaviest trading volume at the TSX, following the company's confirmation that chief corporate officer Cam Battley had been asked on Friday to "step away" from his duties.

Aurora shares closed at $2.62, down three cents or about one per cent, after trading as low as $2.50 earlier in the session.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 36.04 points to close at 28,515.40. The S&P 500 index was down 0.65 points at 3,223.36, while the Nasdaq composite was up 7.24 points at 8,952.88.

All four North American markets closed three hours early Tuesday. The U.S. markets reopen Thursday after Christmas Day but the Toronto Stock Exchange remains closed until Friday.

"It's kind of a nothing day overall. Everyone's trying to bug out for the holidays," said Allan Small, senior investment adviser at HollisWealth.

Small predicted that markets will remain quiet until the new year, when he expects attention to shift to stock values.

"A lot of stocks are trading at multiples that many would consider high. I would say that's fair, in many cases. That's what's going to cause the market volatility — valuations," Small said.

"Many are asking: What's the next catalyst to take this higher? I think that's where people are going to struggle. Analysts will struggle with that and so will investors."

Small noted that the price of oil has been on an upward trend since the OPEC oil-producing countries, and their ally Russia, agreed earlier this month to cut crude production to support prices and bolster their revenues. 

The February crude contract was up 49 cents at US$61.01 per barrel while the February natural gas contract fell 1.2 cents to US$2.205 per mmBTU.

Trican Well Service Ltd. gained three cents or 2.7 per cent to $1.15.

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 76.01 cents US, up from 75.99 cents on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2019.

 

Index and currency in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD, TSX:ACB, TSX:CFF, TSX:RFP, TSX:TCW, TSX:ABX)

David Paddon, The Canadian Press