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Apr 21, 2017

TSX ends lower despite SNC-Lavalin, Home Capital gains

BNN's closing bell update: April 21, 2017

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Canada's main stock index ended barely lower on Friday as bank stocks pulled back with lower bond yields after weak inflation data and energy stocks shrugged off an oil slide to notch gains while SNC-Lavalin Group Inc (SNC.TO) rose on an acquisition move.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended down 11.08 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 15,614.48. It gained 0.5 per cent on the week.

The commodity-rich exchange was boosted by a 0.7-per-cent rise in energy stocks in the face of a sharp selloff in crude prices, with Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) up 0.7 per cent to $40.94 and Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO) adding 2.4 per cent to $14.18.

"In the near term we quite like energy," said Mike Archibald, associate portfolio management at AGF Investments, pointing to expectations of solid earnings growth versus year-ago comparisons and recent outsized stock weakness versus oil's fall.

"On the longer-term trends, where all the super majors seem to be leaving the Canadian marketplace, that does give us some cause for concern," he added.

BP Plc (BP.L) is considering the sale of its stakes in three Canadian oil sands projects, sources told Reuters, following similar exits from ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.N).

SNC-Lavalin gained 2.3 per cent to $54.27 after the engineering and construction company said on Thursday it would move ahead with a planned purchase of Britain's WS Atkins Plc for $3.6 billion.

"It's a good deal, certainly very accretive," Archibald said.

Shares in Home Capital Group (HCG.TO), Canada's biggest non-bank mortgage lender, rebounded 8.7 per cent to $19.25 after a steep decline on Thursday as the company said it would defend itself against allegations by regulators that it withheld information about fraud by mortgage brokers.

The broader financials group fell 0.5 per cent as bond yields slipped. Canada's annual inflation rate cooled more than expected in March, underscoring expectations that any interest rate hike would be a long way off.

Seven of the index's 10 main groups fell, although advancers slightly outnumbered decliners overall.

U.S. MARKETS

U.S. stocks dipped on Friday as investors were cautious ahead of the first round of the closely contested French presidential election, but the S&P 500 managed to notch its first weekly gain in three.

The first round of France's presidential election may be too close to call when polls close on Sunday because initial projections will not be available as early as in the past, pollsters and their watchdog said.

Most polls see centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen qualifying on Sunday for a May 7 runoff, but conservative Francois Fillon and leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon are not far behind and within the margin of error.

"Nobody is taking anything for granted after the big swing and miss in Britain and the big swing and a miss here," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

"I don't think anyone wants to stick their neck out for this one."

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would have a major tax reform announcement on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 30.95 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 20,547.76, the S&P 500 lost 7.15 points, or 0.30 per cent, to 2,348.69 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 6.26 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 5,910.52.

For the week, the Dow rose 0.5 per cent, the S&P gained 0.8 per cent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.8 per cent in what was the first weekly gain for the top indexes over the last three weeks.

A steady stream of strong earnings through the week helped to buoy market sentiment.

Of the 95 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Friday morning, about 75 per cent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the 71-per-cent average for the past four quarters.

Overall, profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 11.2 per cent in the quarter, the most since 2011.

Shares of General Electric fell 2.4 per cent to US$29.55 after the company reported negative cash flow from its industrial operations in the first quarter. The stock was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.

Schlumberger lost 2.2 per cent to US$74.84. The oilfield services provider warned that margins would remain under pressure as it spends more to bring back idled equipment.

Mattel tumbled after the toymaker reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss. The stock closed near its session low, down 13.6 per cent at US$21.79.

Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer told CNBC that the central bank remains on track for two more interest rate increases this year despite some soft economic data recently.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.19-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.40-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 28 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 92 new highs and 39 new lows.

About 6.40 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, slightly above the 6.31 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.