12/18/2011 06:00 EST | Updated 02/17/2012 05:12 EST

Euro Crisis Spells Unclear Future For Canadian Economy


TORONTO - The Toronto stock market cruises into the Christmas holiday period this week, a time that in most years has seen little movement in markets amid sharply lower volumes until senior traders get back from vacation in early January.

But market players expect this holiday season will be quite different with traders prepared for another spate of volatility resulting from the European government debt crisis.

"A lot of fund managers would just book two weeks off right now, close the books off for the year and send out the client statements. (But) I think a lot of fund managers probably will want to stay at their desk (this year) because you never know, right?," said Andrew Pyle, investment adviser at ScotiaMcLeod in Peterborough, Ont.

"It could be the Wednesday after Christmas and there’s a massive headline out of Europe and it’s going to be the day you don’t want to be sitting in the armchair on the beach. Because you’re going to have to respond to client calls, you’re going to have to respond to your portfolios."

The TSX lost 399 points or 3.31 per cent last week in a tug of war that has become all too familiar in 2011 with traders balancing bad news from Europe with economic data showing that the economic recovery in the United States is still on the rails.

Last week saw the European Central Bank continue to pour cold water on the idea that the ECB print more money in order to buy the bonds of heavily-indebted countries as a way to keep borrowing costs lower. But forcing countries to rely on austerity measures to contain their debt likely means economic contraction.

This was balanced against a report showing the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped sharply in the previous week to the fewest since May 2008. Traders were also encouraged by two strong U.S. regional manufacturing reports.

"I think the consensus has been forming recently that we are avoiding recession and I think we’re probably going to avoid at least the first six months of next year," said Pyle, adding it’s a different story for Europe.

"The European recession is a done deal . . . The only thing that will change is the (severity)."

Meanwhile, it’s a light week for economic data heading into the four-day Christmas shutdown on the TSX.

The major report in Canada is data showing how the economy performed in October.

Statistics Canada is expected to report that gross domestic product likely was flat for the month following a 0.2 per cent rise in September.

"Manufacturing volumes fell 0.9 per cent, employment took a big step back and hours worked fell," said a commentary from BMO Capital Markets.

Statistics Canada also reports the latest inflation data on Tuesday.

The agency is expected to report that the consumer price index gained 0.1 per cent in November. This would yield an annual rate of 2.9 per cent, down from as high as 3.7 per cent earlier this year when gasoline and food prices were higher.

The latest reading on retail sales comes out Wednesday. Economists expect sales in October rose 0.4 per cent on top of a September rise of one per cent.

In the U.S., the main report of the week is durable goods orders for November. The consensus calls for a 2.2 per cent rise following a 0.5 per cent rise in October.