TSX Firm Up to End March

Toronto Index Lower 21.6% on the Quarter

A miserable first quarter of 2020 came to an upbeat end Tuesday, as energy and utility stocks powered the main index in Canada’s largest centre, shielding some of the blow administered by the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

The TSX Composite Index popped 340.25 points, or 2.6%, to close Tuesday and the month of March at 13,505.76. On the first quarter, however, the index went sharply south, 3,684.68, or 21.6%, since the end of 2019.

The Canadian dollar recovered from an early clobbering, inching ahead 0.04 cents to 70.62 cents U.S.

A sharp fall in gold prices kept a lid on the sector's gains as the dollar strengthened and strong Chinese economic data boosted risk appetite.

Also lifting the mood, Ottawa said it will waive ground lease rents for airports until December 2020, providing relief worth $331.4 million to help the air transport sector deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Energy stocks led the parade, with Shawcor Ltd., pumping up 42 cents, or 31.3%, to $1.76, while Canadian Natural Resources climbed $3.33, or 21.2%, to $19.05.

Among utilities, Altagas popped 96 cents, or 8.2%, to $12.73, while Superior Plus gained 61 cents, or 7.9%, to $8.30.

In the consumer staples category, North West Company took on $2.60, or 13.3%, to $22.18, while Maple Leaf Foods prospered $1.55, or 6.5%, to $25.43.

Gold dulled in price, with Barrick Gold down $1.33, or 4.8%, to $25.96, while Centerra Gold fell 47 cents, or 5.3%, to $8.37.

Health-care stocks took beatings, as Cronos Group slid $1.12, or 12.4%, to $7.90, while Canopy Growth skidded seven cents, to $20.46.

In other resource stocks, First Quantum Minerals plunged 29 cents, or 3.2%, to $8.74, while SSR Mining dwindled $1.02, or 6.1%, to $15.82.

Economically speaking, Statistics Canada reported this morning that real gross domestic product edged up 0.1% in January, with 12 of the 20 sectors increasing.

The agency’s Industrial Product Price Index was down 0.5% in February, driven primarily by lower prices for refined petroleum products.

The Raw Materials Price Index fell 4.7%, mostly due to lower prices for crude oil.

ON BAYSTREET

The TSX Venture Exchange gained 3.83 points, or 1%, for a gain on the day of to 390.38. The quarterly loss was a staggering 187.16 points, or 32.4%, however.

All but three of the 12 TSX subgroups gained ground, with energy leaping 14.5%, utilities hiking 2.9%, and consumer staples picking up 3.4%.

The three laggards were gold, down 2.2%, health-care, trailing 0.7%, and materials, off 0.1%.

ON WALLSTREET

Stocks fell on Tuesday, the last day of the first quarter, as investors wrapped up a period of historic market volatility sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrials dumped 410.32 points, or 1.8%, to 22,917.16.

The broader S&P 500 fell 42.08 points, or 1.6%, to 2,584.59.

The NASDAQ subtracted 74.05 points, or 1%, to 7,700.10.

The Dow and S&P 500 had their worst first-quarter performances ever, the losing 23.2 and S&P 20% to the bad. The Dow also had its worst overall quarter since 1987 while the S&P 500 had its biggest quarterly loss since 2008.

Bank stock such as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America continued to drop. JPMorgan let go of 3.6%, and Citi fell 4.5%, while Bank of America lost 3.7%. The stocks have been under big pressure this week from declining rates.

Many on Wall Street are calling for even more selling before the market can hit a bottom. Historically, bear markets are often punctuated by sharp bounces on their way down to a trough.

The market pared losses in morning trading after data showed U.S. consumer confidence dropped less than expected in March. The Conference Board said Tuesday its consumer confidence index dropped to 120 this month from 132.6 in February, beating expectations of 110, according to Dow Jones.

The Chicago PMI came in at 47.8 for March, well above estimates of 39, but still signaled a contraction in business activity.

Goldman Sachs is also expecting a sharp rise in the U.S. unemployment rate. The bank said it sees unemployment reaching 15% along with a 34% GDP contraction. However, Goldman expects that decline to be followed by the fastest recovery in history.

Investors continued to grapple with the worsening outbreak in the U.S., as the confirmed cases rose to more than 153,200, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has also officially become the country most affected. Trump said Sunday he hopes the country will "be well on our way to recovery" by June 1.

Prices for the 10-Year U.S. Treasury eked forward, lowering yields to 0.67% from Monday’s 0.71%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices increased 19 cents to $20.28 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices subsided $51.20 to $1,622.90 U.S. an ounce.