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North American stocks notch modest gains, loonie up against U.S. dollar

Canada's main stock index notched a small gain Monday as sectors outside of commodities rose while easing geopolitical tensions helped U.S. markets advance. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 26.41 points at 15,300.
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Canada's main stock index notched a small gain Monday as sectors outside of commodities rose while easing geopolitical tensions helped U.S. markets advance.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 26.41 points at 15,300.38, as losses in energy and metal stocks countered gains across much of the rest of market including health-care, real estate, and industrials.

The gains came after recent U.S. and allied airstrikes on Syria did not appear to increase tensions in the area, said Allan Small, a senior investment adviser at HollisWealth.

"They had the airstrikes over in Syria, and at least for now, tensions with Russia don't seem to be there," said Small.

He said that the lack of reaction has markets, especially in the U.S., focusing instead on the early results from earnings season.

"Because there was nothing retaliatory from Russia or whoever, markets thought it was a-ok and started to move up, positively trading on what it should be trading on, which is earnings and strength of the U.S. economy and the global economy, versus rhetoric, which is unfortunately what the market has been trading on for the past little while."

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 212.90 points at 24,573.04. The S&P 500 index ended up 21.54 points at 2,677.84 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 49.63 points at 7,156.28.

Small said the easing of tensions in the Middle East also helped push oil prices and stocks lower, with the May crude contract ending down US$1.17 cents at US$66.22 per barrel.

"With oil, it's the perception that's more powerful than reality, and at the end of the day, if there is some fear in that area or region of the world, it's going to cause oil to move higher. So maybe some of that came off today."

The Canadian dollar averaged 79.50 cents US, up 0.12 of a US cent. The May natural gas contract was up two cents to US$2.75 per mmBTU.

The June gold contract closed up US$2.80 to US$1,350.70 an ounce and the May copper contract ended up three cents at US$3.10 a pound.

Resolute Forest Products Inc. saw its share price climb 22 cents, or 1.74 per cent, to $12.89 after Unifor said it had reached a tentative deal with the company that would serve as a pattern agreement for future negotiations.

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press