Markets start December in the green after ‘remarkable’ November comes to a close

Canada’s main stock index gained more than 200 points Friday on broad-based strength led by base metals, industrials and telecom stocks, while U.S. markets also rose.

The first day of December began on a positive note after a “remarkable” month of November for the market, said Brian Madden, chief investment officer with First Avenue Investment Counsel.

December is historically positive as well, said Madden, though he isn’t expecting a repeat of November.

“November was a rip-roaring rally in the stock market,” he said.

However, it was also a significant month for the bond market, he added.

“This was the second best month for bonds since the turn of the century,” he said.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 216.58 points at 20,452.87.

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In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 294.61 points at 36,245.50. The S&P 500 index was up 26.83 points at 4,594.63, while the Nasdaq composite was up 78.81 points at 14,305.03.

December will see interest rate decisions from the Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve, where they’re both expected to hold their overnight rates steady, said Madden. Central bank officials may try to cool market expectations, which currently call for cuts as soon as March, but overall he doesn’t expect the announcements to be “unduly hawkish.”

The latest report on Canada’s labour market showed the unemployment rate rose to 5.8 per cent in November, up from 5.7 per cent. The market added 25,000 jobs, slightly more than it added in October and modestly higher than forecasters had expected.

The report was good, but not sensational, said Madden.

“It’s certainly still evidence of a strong labour market, but some of the acute shortages that we saw a year ago are starting to get filled,” he said.

However, wage gains showed no signs of abating, he noted. Average hourly wages rose 4.8 per cent from a year earlier, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the big week of Canadian bank earnings came to a close Friday with National Bank and Bank of Montreal both reporting. BMO Financial Group reported lower profits but raised its dividend, while National Bank saw profits rise in the fourth quarter and also raised its dividend.

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Bank earnings overall were a “mixed bag,” said Madden.

The dividend increases announced by most of the banks were a positive sign, he said. But the big theme was the rise in credit loss provisions, indicating mounting stress for consumers and businesses, he added.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.04 cents US compared with 73.63 cents US on Thursday.

The January crude oil contract was down US$1.89 at US$74.07 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was up one cent at US$2.81 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was up US$32.50 at US$2,089.70 an ounce and the March copper contract was up eight cents at US$3.93 a pound.

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