10/29/2012 08:26 EDT | Updated 12/29/2012 05:12 EST

Hurricane Sandy: TSX Flat As U.S. Exchanges Stay Closed


TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed little changed Monday while major U.S. exchanges in New York City cancelled trading for the day as hurricane Sandy lurched towards the Eastern Seaboard.

And as the monster hurricane moved towards arriving on the New Jersey shore Monday night, officials announced the NYSE would be closed Tuesday as well.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 12.45 points to 12,312.75, while the TSX Venture Exchange declined 9.41 points to 1,291.43.

"In many ways, we do take our cues from the U.S. market, so certainly it being closed caused Toronto to be somewhat directionless today," said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds.

The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq said they intend to reopen on Wednesday and will keep investors updated.

U.S. bond trading will also be closed Tuesday. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association called for an early close to bond trading Monday, at 12 noon EDT.

Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar closed below parity with the U.S. currency for the first time since early August.

The loonie was down 0.28 of a cent to 99.92 cents US.

The commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar has lost value lately amid growing pessimism about the global economic outlook, which has contributed to falling prices for oil and copper.

The operator of the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Euronext, originally announced late Sunday afternoon trading could carry on through its electronic trading backup even though floor trading would be cancelled due to the storm.

But it said Monday morning that "the dangerous conditions developing as a result of hurricane Sandy will make it extremely difficult to ensure the safety of our people and communities."

Lower parts of Manhattan around the Financial District are under mandatory evacuation order.

CME Group which operates the New York Mercantile Exchange, halted all electronic and floor-trading activity in equity-index futures and options mid-morning. All other CME Group futures and futures-options markets remained open.

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 sense is that things have been pretty slow these days and people worried and this is another thing to add to the wall of worry that seems to be getting higher all the time," added Stephenson.

"In general, people are looking at Europe as an unresolved mess and no end in sight to that problem. China is weak and of course there is all the uncertainty about the U.S. fiscal cliff and the U.S. election. All of that is weighing on sentiment and there is an absence of positive news."

The base metals sector led decliners, down one per cent while December copper lost six cents to US$3.49 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) shed 26 cents to $30.78 while First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) fell 38 cents to $22.15.

The financial sector was off 0.41 per cent after concerns about consumer debt and home prices in Canada prompted Moody’s Investors Service to place the long-term ratings of six Canadian banks on review Friday for a possible downgrade.

The ratings agency said high levels of consumer debt and high housing prices have left the banks more vulnerable to downside risks to the Canadian economy than in the past.

The agency put Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO), Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS), Caisse Centrale Desjardins, CIBC (TSX:CM), National Bank of Canada (TSX:NA) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD) under review. TD was down 49 cents to $80.68.

Royal Bank (TSX:RY), which had already been downgraded by Moody's earlier in the year, was not included on the list. Its stock slipped 48 cents to $56.35.

Insurer Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) dropped 16 cents to $12.14 after an RBC analyst said Canadian companies who provide reinsurance to property and catastrophe insurance companies could see a drag on earnings in the fourth quarter if damage from hurricane Sandy is significant. Other companies providing reinsurance include Bank of Montreal and Great-West Lifeco (TSX:GWO).

The energy sector was up 0.33 per cent with the December crude contract down 74 cents to US$85.54 a barrel.

The Canadian arm of a Malaysian state-owned oil company, Petronas Canada, has extended the deadline for its takeover bid for Progress Energy Resources Corp.(TSX:PRQ) in hopes it will be able to convince Industry Canada to reverse an earlier decision and approve the deal. The deadline had been extended to Nov. 30 from Oct. 31. Progress shares ran up $1.45 to $19.81.

The gold sector was up about 0.6 per cent while December bullion was down $3.20 to US$1,708.70 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) edged up 92 cents to $44.65.

Defensive stocks also provided the TSX with some lift with the utilities sector ahead 0.6 per cent. TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) and Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd. are forming a partnership to build a $3-billion pipeline project in Northern Alberta. TransCanada shares gained 50 cents to $44.90

The consumer staples sector was also up as grocer Loblaw Cos. (TSX:L) rose 26 cents to $34.32.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX: MDA) was a major gainer on the TSX. It jumped $5.25 or 10.46 per cent to $55.43 after it said Friday that it has cleared a U.S. antitrust review of its US$875-million takeover bid for California-based Space Systems/Loral Inc.

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