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Lower oil prices weigh on the Toronto stock market, U.S. indexes steady

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market fell Monday as oil prices tracked lower ahead of the release of the federal budget, while Wall Street remained steady. The S&P/TSX composite index gave up 48.17 points at 15,442.
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TORONTO — The Toronto stock market fell Monday as oil prices tracked lower ahead of the release of the federal budget, while Wall Street remained steady.

The S&P/TSX composite index gave up 48.17 points at 15,442.32, a notable gain in the gold sector not enough to offset losses in most other sectors.

The market also benefited from news of an unsolicited US$1.1 billion takeover offer that was rejected by Toronto-based Dominion Diamond, a company run by American billionaire Dennis Washington.

Dominion Diamond (TSX:DDC) operates the Ekati mine in the Northwest Territories and owns a 40 per cent stake in the Diavik mine through a joint venture with Rio Tinto.

Shares in the company soared more than 23 per cent, or $3.06, to finish at $16.27 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Canadian markets analyst Craig Fehr said the Canadian market is shying away from any major moves until the federal budget gets released on Wednesday.

Market watchers will wait to see if Ottawa plans on any massive spending in areas like the resource or industrials sectors, which may stand to benefit most.

"This is going to be an interesting budget, not because it's going to contain a lot of surprises, but it will show a bit of how the government is perhaps trying to navigate the uncertainties that exist now with trade policies and the U.S.," said Fehr, who is with Edward Jones in St. Louis. 

The budget will also be keeping an eye on fiscal restraint to ensure that government debt levels don't raise dramatically, he added.

"There are a lot of balls in the air for the government and I think the budget is going to address some or all of them at the same time," said Fehr.

In New York, markets were mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 8.76 points to 20,905.86 and the broader S&P 500 dipped 4.78 points to 2,373.47. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was barely changed, gaining 0.53 of a point to 5,901.53.

Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its key short-term rate by a quarter-point to a range of 0.75 to one per cent, committing to staying the course by planning only two more raises this year despite a strengthening U.S. economy.

Overseas, Britain's government said it will trigger the process of leaving the European Union on March 29. That will start a long negotiation between Britain and the EU, with uncertain effects for banks and other companies. The country is expected to officially leave the union in early 2019.

In currencies, the Canadian dollar was trading at 74.88 cents US, down 0.10 of a U.S. cent amid weaker crude prices. The April oil contract lost 56 cents at US$48.22 a barrel, while the more heavily traded May contract fell 40 cents at $48.91 a barrel.

Other commodities were mixed with April natural gas contracts rising nine cents at US$3.04 per mmBTU, April gold up US$3.80 at US$1,234 an ounce and May copper falling two cents to US$2.67 a pound.

— With files from The Associated Press

 

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press



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