TORONTO - Hurricane Sandy is set to overshadow the start of the trading week after the operator of the New York Stock Exchange said that it is suspending physical floor trading operations.
NYSE Euronext said late Sunday afternoon that while the exchange will remain open for trading Monday, it will invoke its contingency plan which involves trading all NYSE-listed securities on its Arca system, its fully electronic exchange.
The move by the NYSE came after it was announced that New York’s public transit system would shut at 7 p.m. EDT Sunday while 375,000 residents would be evacuated from low-lying areas of the city. Many major businesses in lower Manhattan are suspending or curtailing operations.
It’s not known when the NYSE trading floor will re-open.
“This is an extremely dangerous and unpredictable weather event,” said Duncan Niederauer, chief executive officer NYSE Euronext.
“The re-opening of physical trading is subject to city and state determinations and local conditions.”
The Toronto stock market was already in for a lacklustre showing this week as disappointments over the quarterly earnings season pile up and traders exercise caution ahead of an American election too close to call.
"The next week and a half or so will likely be somewhat muted," said Jennifer Dowty, portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.
"It’s certainly slowed down, you can see the activity rather benign. Volumes are low, (there's) a lack of conviction right now until we get clarity in November with the election I think people are just going to sit on the sidelines."
However, sentiment could find lift from top-drawer economic data, including the latest read on Canadian economic growth. Markets will also look to American consumer confidence, house prices, manufacturing activity and the week ends with job creation figures for Canada and the U.S.
The Canadian earnings season will remain in high gear, with reports coming in from the telecom, mining and energy sectors.
The Toronto and New York markets ended last week lower amid weak earnings reports from market giants Apple Inc., DuPont chemical and conglomerate 3M Inc. Data showing better than expected third quarter growth in the U.S. failed to benefit markets as analysts noted that the two per cent rise was driven largely by a jump in government spending and the housing sector.
The TSX lost 0.93 per cent while the Dow industrials backed off 1.77 per cent.
Markets are operating under a cloud of uncertainty as traders gauge who will emerge as the winner of the American election and what effect that will have on resolving the fiscal cliff that the U.S. faces at the end of December.
That is when a variety of tax hikes and budget reductions will come into effect unless Republicans and Democrats can come together with an alternative budget plan.
"You have people taking money off the table already," said Andrew Pyle, investment adviser at ScotiaMcLeod in Peterborough, Ont.
And that nervousness is bound to increase as November wears on.
"The market will give some benefit of a doubt, in other words after the election if things don’t get fixed on day two. That might be a couple of weeks. But at some point, probably before we get into December the market is going to pass judgment on whether this is probable, in other words fixing it, or improbable and we’re going to have a very nasty situation in 2013."
On the economic front, economists aren't expecting a blowout number from the August read on Canadian gross domestic product. They see growth coming in at 0.2 per cent,
"If August posts growth of 0.2 per cent, Q3 could track roughly 1.8 per cent annualized, better than the Bank of Canada's recent downgraded call of one per cent," said CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor.
Traders will particularly look to the October U.S. job creation figures coming out on Friday, the final big piece of economic data released before the election.
The consensus calls for the economy to have cranked out 120,000 jobs. That would be up slightly from the September report that had job creation of 114,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent, 0.3 of a point down from August.
Pyle said it's hard to say what impact the report would have on the election.
"Revisions to this will be key, mainly because we saw some revisions on the initial jobless claims numbers that came out in the last couple of weeks so there is the potential for some significant revisions in this report," he said.
"Unless we think we’re going to get (a jobless rate of) 7.6 per cent, which would maybe make it a game changer for this election, I don’t think it’s going to have that much influence (on the election) or in the markets either."
In Canada, it is expected that Statistics Canada will report that the economy created 7,500 jobs during October following a surge of more than 52,000 in the previous month with the jobless rate edging down 0.1 of a point to 7.3 per cent.
Also in the U.S., it is expected the Institute for Supply Management will report the manufacturing sector continued to show expansion during October, with the index coming in at 51.5, unchanged from September.
Traders will also take in the latest reading on consumer confidence from the Conference Board and the S&P/Case-Shiller housing price index.
Losses on the TSX were limited last week by strong earnings reports from gold producers Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) and Agnico-Eagle Mines (TSX:AEM). Traders will take in reports this week from Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) on Thursday.
Also reporting is Canadian Oil Sands (TSX:COS) Monday, Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) on Tuesday, miners Sherritt International (TSX:S), First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) Wednesday and telecom BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) and Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) on Thursday.