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TSX, U.S. stock markets steady ahead of Fed interest rate decision



TORONTO — North American stock indexes were looking for some direction Monday ahead of a closely-awaited policy rate decision this week from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 38.14 points to 15,544.82, helped by gains in the metals and gold sectors.

Among the most influential stocks showing gains was TD Bank (TSX:TD), advancing 96 cents or 1.45 per cent at $66.96. The bank's shares had fallen $3.88 in heavy trading on Friday after CBC reported that current and former TD employees alleged they broke the law to meet sales targets in order to keep their jobs. TD has denied the allegations.

Another major gainer was financial services firm DH Corp. (TSX:DH), adding $2.12 or 9.20 per cent to $25.16 per share after it received a friendly takeover offer.

The Canadian dollar was trading at 74.38 cents US, up 0.10 of a U.S. cent.

South of the border, markets seemed to have hit the pause button ahead of an upcoming Fed meeting, which ends on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 21.50 points to 20,881.48 and the S&P 500 index was barely changed, up 0.88 of a point to 2,373.48. The Nasdaq composite index gained 14.06 points to 5,875.78.

Most investors anticipate the U.S. central bank will raise short-term interest rates at the meeting. It would only be the third increase after it had cut rates to a record low of nearly zero during the financial crisis in 2008.

Although expectations are high, Canadian equities analyst Craig Fehr says there's still a chance that the Fed might surprise the markets.

"We went so many years where there was relatively no uncertainty heading into these meetings because the expectation was that the Fed was going to remain on hold," said Fehr, who works at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

"And now, we've started to embark on this new era of monetary policy in the states where there is going to be a bit of uncertainty meeting-to-meeting in terms of whether or not there is going to be a rate hike."

Fehr said regardless of the decision, the markets will be closely watching the language surrounding possible future hikes. The central bank has previously said it wants to raise rates as many as three times this year.

Expectations of a March rate hike have been bolstered amid more evidence that the U.S. economy is improving, including Friday's jobs report, which showed strong hiring in February.

The Fed isn't the only central bank meeting on interest rates this week. Other banks around the world are also meeting, including the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.

Meanwhile, commodities were mixed with the April crude contract down nine cents at US$48.40 per barrel and April natural gas up four cents at US$3.04 per mmBTU.

April gold rose $1.70 at US$1,203.10 an ounce and May copper added three cents to US$2.63 a pound.

— With files from The Associated Press

 

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press

Read More: Business

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