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S&P/TSX composite creeps lower Friday, U.S. markets also down after jobs reports

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TORONTO — Canada’s main stock index crept lower on Friday while U.S. markets were also down, led by a 1.2-per cent loss on the Nasdaq after both countries saw fresh jobs data. 

Markets were up earlier in the day before slumping in the afternoon, with the S&P 500 pulling back from Thursday’s all-time highs after AI darling Nvidia, one of the major drivers of recent growth, fell 5.6 per cent. 

The tech stock has soared by almost 77 per cent so far this year, and Friday was its worst day since May. 

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 68.66 points at 38,722.69.The S&P 500 index was down 33.67 points at 5,123.69, while the Nasdaq composite was down 188.26 points at 16,085.11.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 57.30 points at 21,737.53.

Friday’s much-anticipated jobs report in the U.S. was mixed, adding more jobs in February than expected while unemployment ticked higher, though it remains at historic lows. 

“There’s a little bit of something for everybody in today’s data,” said Steve Locke, chief investment officer for fixed income and multi-asset strategies at Mackenzie Investments.

Though the headline numbers were higher than expected, there were some details that helped balance that out, said Locke. For example, the U.S. report saw revisions lower for the previous month, he said. 

Meanwhile, Canada also saw job gains in February, driven by full-time employment, while the unemployment rate ticked up by a tenth of a percentage point to 5.8 per cent. Strong population growth has been a recurring theme affecting the monthly jobs numbers as the workforce increases. 

Labour markets have remained stronger than expected despite monetary tightening, noted Locke.

“We’ve definitely seen some slowing in labour markets over the past year,” he said, but things haven’t been trending down significantly. 

Markets still expect a handful of interest rate cuts this year, though Locke thinks the Bank of Canada could start cutting earlier than the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The Bank of Canada is walking a thin line due to the Canadian economy’s sensitivity to interest rates, he said.

“In Canada, we may see that interest rate sensitivity pushing down on growth a little bit more than then we will in the U.S.” he said. 

Canadian mortgages are much shorter, meaning more consumers have seen or will soon see their mortgage refinanced at a significantly higher rate. 

But the housing market has also seen a boom from immigration and other factors that have increased the gap between demand and supply, he said. 

A few rate cuts are already priced into the mortgage curve, added Locke. 

“I think just following through on that won’t necessarily create another boom state in Canadian housing, but the demand-supply imbalance is certainly one of the underpinnings of that risk.” 

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.23 cents US compared with 74.22 cents US on Thursday.

The April crude contract was down 92 cents at US$78.01 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was down a penny at US$1.81 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was up US$20.30 at US$2,185.50 an ounce and the May copper contract was down three cents at US$3.89 a pound.

— With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2024.

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

Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press

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