TSX Closes Barely Higher Having Lost More Than 30 Pts Late In Day; Bank CEOs Take Centre Stage

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Canada's main stock market, the Toronto Stock Exchange, closed Tuesday up just 1.5 points at 16,319.24, but with downward momentum, having been nearer to 40 points higher around mid-afternoon. Among sectors, Energy was up near 1.2% and health care up near 3.2%. In comparison, Materials was down near 1% and Telecoms was down 0.4%

In terms of influence on the resources heavy TSX, February West Texas Intermediate crude jumped 2% to settle near US$63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest levels in more than three years amid expectations the EIA will on Wednesday report an eight successive week of lower U.S. crude inventories. Meanwhile, February gold lost 0.5%, largely due to a stronger U.S. dollar, but the precious metal still remained above the key US$1,300 mark, holding on to some of the strong gains made in December.

In the stock market, banks took centre stage. RBC hosted a Bank CEO Conference with the heads from each of the top banks speaking at that. Among highlights, Royal Bank of Canada's (RY.TO, RY) Chief Executive Dave McKay said there is now a greater chance that the North American Free Trade Agreement could be scrapped. In a keynote address at this conference, Canada's banking regulator outlined plans to introduce new capital rules even more strict than those proposed by global regulators to make sure local banks withstand financial shocks.

And in individual bank news, Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO, TD) moved to buy artificial intelligence startup Layer 6 AI for an undisclosed amount as financial services companies increasingly look to tap in to the technology's potential.

In economic news, housing starts slowed to a 217k pace in December from 251.7k (was 252.2k) in November, nearly as expected. Multiple starts showed the anticipated tumble, down 22% to 135.2k after surging 17% to 175k in November. Single-detached starts grew 4.7% to 63.0k. Trend starts, as measured by the six-month moving average, edged up to 226.8k in December from 226.2k in November, consistent with ongoing strength in Canada's housing sector nationally. However, some moderation is expected this year by fresh regulatory measures that will be implemented this month.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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