After a weak start Wednesday morning, the Canadian stock market gained in strength, but failed to find support at higher levels and eventually ended the session flat.
Losses in energy and materials sections dragged the market down. Information technology, financial, industrial and consumer staples shares moved higher.
The mood was a bit cautious amid concerns about tensions in the Middle East. Investors were digesting news of Iran’s attack on Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani last week.
Although Iran’s action initially raised concerns about an escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, reports saying the attack did not result in any casualties to Americans and that Iran was seeking to make a show of force without ramping up the conflict, helped ease fears about any major conflict for now.
The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index, which rose to a high of 17,229.88, falling just short of its record high of 17,230.58, ended the day at 17,167.82, down 0.24 points from previous close.
In the materials space, Eldorado Gold (ELD.TO), Novagold (NG.TO), Torex Gold Resources (TXG.TO), B2Gold Corp (BTO.TO), Detour Gold Corp (DGC.TO), First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO), Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) and Teck Resources (TECK.B.TO) lost 3 to 6.3%.
Among energy stocks, Encana Corp (ECA.TO) and Baytex Energy (BTE.TO) both ended lower by more than 7%. Crescent Point Energy (CPG.TO), Enerplus Corp (ERF.TO), Whitecap Resources (WCP.TO), ARC Resources (ARX.TO), Husky Energy (HSE.TO), Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO), Vermilion Energy (VET.TO) and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) lost 2 to 4.5%.
Information technology stocks Quarterhill (QTRH.TO), Lightspeed POS (LSPD.TO), Sierra Wireless (SW.TO), Celestica Inc. (CLS.TO), Constellation Software (CSU.TO), CGI Group (GIB.A.TO), Evertz Technologies (ET.TO), Shopify Inc. (SHOP.TO) and Descartes Systems (DSG.TO) gained 1 to 3.5%.
Among the stocks in the financial space, Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) and Canadian Western Bank (CWB.TO) both gained nearly 2.5%. Manulife Financial (MFC.TO), Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO), Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) also ended with notable gains.
Cott Corp (BCB.TO), up 4%, was the top gainer in the Consumer Staples space. The company announced Wednesday that, as part of its strategic planning process, it is evaluating certain strategic alternatives for S&D Coffee and Tea, including a sale of S&D, to transition Cott into a pure-play water solutions provider. S&D is the U.S. market leader in custom coffee roasting and the largest blender of iced teas for food service and convenience stores in the United States.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ATD.B.TO) shares gained nearly 1.5% and Jamieson Wellness (JWEL.TO) gained about 1.4%.
In the industrial space, Cae Inc. (CAE.TO) rallied 4.1%. Air Canada (AC.TO), Richelieu Hardware (RCH.TO), Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO), Chorus Aviation (CHR.TO), Tfi International (TFII.TO), Ats Automation (ATA.TO) and Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO) gained 1 to 1.7%.
U.S. stocks ended on a firm note as President Donald Trump delivered a statement responding to last night’s attack by Iran, indicating the U.S. would hit Iran with new sanctions but not respond militarily.
Data from ADP that showed a bigger than expected jump in private sector job growth in December helped as well in pushing stock prices up.
The Nasdaq, which advanced 0.7%, ended the session at a new record closing high. The Dow climbed 0.6% and the S&P 500 gained 0.5%.
The major European markets closed higher, while markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended mostly lower.
In commodities, West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for February ended down $3.09, or about 4.9%, at $59.61 a barrel.
Gold futures for February ended down $14.10, or about 0.9%, at $1,560.20 an ounce.
Silver futures for March declined $0.226, to settle at $18.167 an ounce, while Copper futures for March settled at $2.812