TORONTO – While U.S. markets set record highs, Canada’s main stock index ended the week lower as the loonie hit a nine-month high.
The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 39.78 points to 16,488.12 after hitting an intraday high of 16,525.70.
Seven of the 11 major sectors decreased, led by a 4.5 per cent drop by cannabis-heavy health-care sector.
A fifth consecutive day of share losses by CannTrust Holdings Inc., following a halt of all sales and shipments of cannabis products amid a Health Canada investigation, spread to other cannabis producers, including Canopy Growth Corp., Cronos Group Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc.
CannTrust shares fell 17.3 per cent on Friday and have been cut almost in half since Monday.
The lustre is coming off of the cannabis sector, said Patrick Blais, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.
“A lot of investors believe that these names are overvalued,” he said in an interview. “Of course they’ll be volatile. They’re still growth stories and growth stories can move quite violently on the way up, on the way down.”
Shopify Inc. drove technologies lower, while utilities, consumer staples and financials also fell.
Energy was marginally lower as the August crude contract was up one cent at US$60.21 per barrel and the August natural gas contract was up 3.7 cents at US$2.45 per mmBTU.
Consumer discretionary, industrials, materials and real estate ended the day higher.
Shares of several miners climbed, including Yamana Gold Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp, as the price of gold rose. The August gold contract was up US$5.50 at US$1,412.20 an ounce and the September copper contract was up 0.7 of cent at US$2.69 a pound.
The Canadian dollar traded for an average of 76.70 cents US, the highest level since October and compared with an average of 76.51 cents US on Thursday.
The loonie has gained strength as the perception of the Canadian economy has improved and the Bank of Canada’s decision not to follow the U.S. Federal Reserve in lowering interest rates has supported the Canadian currency, said Blais.
Meanwhile, he said the U.S. economy is viewed to be deteriorating.
American markets set record highs Friday as the prospect of interest rate cuts solidified with the comments from the governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago that the central bank’s focus is to pre-empt deflation.
“He was being actually quite specific so it seems as though they’re really saying to the market that ‘we are concerned about low inflation and that is the emphasis of our mandate and irrespective maybe of the other concerns,’ ” Blais added.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 243.95 points at 27,332.03, a record close and slightly lower than the intraday peak of 27,333.79.
The S&P 500 index was up 13.86 points at 3,013.77, a tad lower than the high set earlier in the day, while the Nasdaq composite was up 48.10 points at 8,244.14, also a little below its record intraday high.