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North American stock markets close lower

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TORONTO — Canada's main stock index lost ground in the final day of trading in July as some commodities dropped, but North American stock markets in general finished the month with positive numbers.

Pierre Cléroux, VP of Research and Chief Economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada, said Amazon Inc. announced it missed its sales targets for the quarter, which stoked concerns that the next quarter may not be as prosperous for equity markets as the previous one.

“They didn’t miss it by much, but… people are kind of worried that the tech companies, which performed very well through the pandemic, are probably not going to be as good for growth in the next few months as before,” said Cléroux.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 23.98 points at 20,287.80.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 149.06 points at 34,935.47. The S&P 500 index was down 23.89 points at 4,395.26, while the Nasdaq composite was down 105.58 points at 14,672.68.

“To put it into perspective, all the markets are down, but they’re slightly down,” said Cléroux.

“The Nasdaq is still 1 per cent up for July, the Dow is 1.5 per cent up, so despite the fact today was not a good day, overall over the month, this has been positive.”

Cléroux said the concerns over U.S. tech stocks had implications in Canada too, especially for Canadian tech companies like Shopify Inc., which lost 1.39 per cent of its value in trading today.

As earnings season continues, Cléroux said the second quarter of 2021 has been positive for most companies, which benefitted from reopenings as COVID-19 vaccines were widely distributed. 

Restaurant Brands International Inc. reported a strong second quarter today, beating estimates from analysts with solid earnings. The Toronto-based company’s stock was up 5.42 per cent as a result.

Cléroux said Enbridge Inc. also reported a strong second quarter, although their stock still declined slightly by 0.55 per cent as a result of more concerns over oil and gas demand. 

The September crude oil contract dipped mid-day, but closed up 33 cents cents at US$73.95 per barrel. The September natural gas contract was down 14.5 cents at US$3.914 per mmBTU.

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S. and Europe, Cléroux said oil prices continue to be in question as the danger of economic restrictions looms.

Metals also suffered losses today, with the December gold contract down US$18.60 at US$1,817.20 an ounce and the September copper contract down 4.1 cents at nearly US$4.48 a pound.

The substantial drop in gold comes after a larger rise on Thursday. Cléroux said the drop was largely due to people selling their assets after making profits Thursday, and to other market effects. 

The Canadian government also released its GDP report for May, reporting a 0.3 per cent contraction for the month.

However, Cléroux said it was a mixed message since the government is also estimating 0.7 per cent growth for June, as that month will take into account when COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted.

He also expects a positive report for July, since that was the month that provinces like Alberta opened almost entirely without restrictions.

“We knew May was going to be negative because a lot of provinces had to introduce restrictions on the economy,” said Cléroux.

“We expect the rest of the year to be really good.”

The GDP news did not have a significant effect on the Canadian dollar, which traded for 80.24 cents US, compared with 80.32 cents US on Thursday.

Cléroux attributed the drop mostly to the drop in commodity prices Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD)

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press