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North American markets close in the red after up-and-down day of trading

Canada's main stock index fell slightly on the Tuesday after the August long weekend, while U.S. markets also closed in the red after an up-and-down day of trading.
A group of men walk past the Toronto-Dominion Centre on Wellington Street in the financial district in Toronto on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Evan Buhler

Canada's main stock index fell slightly on the Tuesday after the August long weekend, while U.S. markets also closed in the red after an up-and-down day of trading.

At the closing bell, Toronto’s main stock index, the S&P/TSX composite, was down 187.59 points at 19,505.33. 

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 402.23 points at 32,396.17. The S&P 500 index closed down 27.44 points at 4,091.19, while the Nasdaq composite closed down 20.22 points at 12,348.76.

But throughout much of the day Tuesday, there was no obvious pattern to North American market movements, said TD Wealth vice-president and investment manager Michael Currie. 

At one point mid-afternoon, the S&P/TSX composition was down about half a per cent, largely due to energy sector declines, while south of the border the Dow was down nearly twice that amount, the S&P 500 was nearly flat and the Nasdaq was in positive territory.

Currie said that kind of divergence is often seen when investors aren’t quite sure what to make of developments in the news. That appears to be what happened Tuesday, as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan for a much-publicized visit. The visit has ratcheted up U.S. tensions with China, and has led some investors to worry there could be a spillover into financial markets in the form of potential blockages in international trade.

At this point, though, investors are speculating more than they're reacting to tangible implications, Currie said.

"[Pelosi's visit is] certainly a big story, and it has market impacts, but it’s debatable if it’s going to be a big event or a non-event," he added.

Investors also appear to be unsure what to infer from recent comments from U.S. Federal Reserve officials, suggesting continued hikes to interest rates are coming in order to keep pushing back against rising inflation, Currie said. 

Previously, weak recent data on the U.S. economy had raised speculation that the peak for inflation and for the Federal Reserve’s aggressive hikes to interest rates may be approaching or has already passed.

"So there's a bit of a tug-of-war there," Currie said.

In Canada, only the technology and health care sectors ended the day in positive territory, while the capped materials sector was the biggest loser, followed by energy. 

The September crude contract was up 53 cents at US$94.42 per barrel and the September natural gas contract was down 58 cents at US$7.71. Currie said when it comes to oil prices, all eyes will be on Wednesday's meeting of  the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries and allies (OPEC+). 

"There’s talk they will hold output steady," Currie said. "They had originally wanted to increase it, but the prediction now is they will keep holding steady because we’re seeing quite a bit of weakness in oil in the last couple months off this year's earlier highs." 

The December gold contract was up US$2 at US$1,789.70 an ounce and the September copper contract was down two cents at US$3.52 a pound.

While gold has been up quite strongly over the last couple of weeks, Tuesday's bump is likely directly related to Pelosi's visit, Currie said, pointing out that investors often seek shelter in gold during times of geopolitical uncertainty.

Amidst all of the financial and political uncertainty right now, investors are looking to the latest crop of corporate earnings reports to give them a hint about where the economy might be headed. 

In Canada, Air Canada raked in a nearly five-fold revenue increase in its latest quarter, but continued to suffer net losses in the hundreds of millions due to a "very challenging" three months, said CEO Mike Rousseau.

Edmonton-based Capital Power Corp. reported a strong jump in profits and hiked its guidance for the year, while beer maker Molson Coors Beverage Co. reported a dip in profits on lower net sales. 

South of the border, rideshare company Uber surged nearly 18 per cent on Tuesday after it reported stronger revenue than analysts expected.

The Canadian dollar traded for 77.78 cents US compared with 77.98 cents US on Friday.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press