Stock indices stay flat as TSX dragged down by financial sector

TORONTO — The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index closed little changed on Friday as a news report alleging illegal practices at TD Bank dragged down the financial sector on a day that otherwise saw strong economic news.

The S&P/TSX composite index edged up 9.84 points to 15,506.68 points.

Stocks in the financials sector lost on average more than one per cent of their worth. TD Bank's shares were among the top five biggest decliners of the day on the index.

A CBC story on Friday reported that hundreds of current and former employees at the bank contacted the broadcaster, with some alleging they broke the law to reach sales targets. TD (TSX:TD) denied the reports.

However, the bank's shares fell 5.55 per cent or $3.88 to $66.00 in the day's trading on the index.

The financial sector was also hurt by the increased likelihood that the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise interest rates multiple times this year, said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets Canada.

A U.S. Labour Department report released Friday showed American employers added 235,000 jobs last month, which outperformed analysts' expectations.

While a central bank rate hike was nearly certain to come out of the Federal Reserve's meeting when it meets next Tuesday and Wednesday, Cieszynski said this report adds to the case for a possible three to four hikes during 2017.

In the United States, New York stock indices remained relatively flat.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44.79 points to 20,902.98, the S&P 500 index added 7.73 points to 2,372.60, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 22.92 points to 5,861.73.

The Canadian dollar saw some strength, rising a quarter of a U.S. cent to 74.28 cents US.

That boost came on the back of stronger-than-expected data Statistics Canada released Friday morning, showing Canada's unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 per cent last month. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in more than two years.

The price of oil kept the commodity-sensitive loonie from advancing further.

The April crude contract fell 79 cents to US$48.49 per barrel.

"If it wasn't for that, we'd be having an even better day," said Cieszynski.

Elsewhere in commodities, April gold fell US$1.80 to US$1,201.40 an ounce, April natural gas gained 3.4 cents to about US$3.01 per mmBTU and May copper rose 1.5 cents to roughly US$2.60 a pound.


— With files from the Canadian Press


Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

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