NEWS

Stock markets, Canadian dollar inch up as Christmas break begins

12/24/2014 02:40 EST | Updated 02/23/2015 05:59 EST
Major stock indexes in Canada and the U.S. finished in the green on Wednesday in a shortened trading session before markets wrapped up for the Christmas break.

The TSX gained 13.28 points to 14,607.31 on a trading day where volumes were far below normal levels. Financials, gold and materials stocks all gained, even as commodity prices weakened — gold lost $4.50 to trade at $1,173 an ounce, and oil lost another $1.27 US to close at $55.85 a barrel.

Oil prices have fallen dramatically in recent months, but this week, natural gas joined the sell-off. The price has hit a low of $3 at times this week, its lowest level in more than two years.

The reason? Unseasonably warm weather is reducing demand for the heating fuel during the key winter months. "A resurgence in cold weather, and the resultant jump in demand, could still lead to large price spikes during January and February," Capital Economics analyst Tom Pugh said in a research note Wednesday.

The Canadian dollar was just barely higher, but it was enough to keep its head above the 86-cent mark.

U.S. stocks also took part in the Santa rally, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 18,000 for the second straight day. The close above 18,000 on Tuesday was an all-time record for the Dow, before it set a new record on Wednesday.

If that holds until the end of the year, the Dow will have gained about nine per cent in 2014, far better than what most analysts were expecting this time last year.

After slumping late in the year as oil declined, the TSX has rallied to a gain of about 1,000 points since the middle of December, and is currently up about seven per cent on the year as a whole.

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