The 30-year anniversary of the Black Monday (October 19, 1987) came and went without generating fits of anxiety in equity markets. Equities were also mostly able to shake off rising geopolitical risk as the Spanish government took steps to suspend Catalan autonomy – the latest move in a standoff over the region’s drive for independence. In the U.S., Treasury yields and the dollar moved higher as investors contemplated the candidacy of John Taylor for the next Chair of the Federal Reserve (a “Taylor Fed” is viewed as likely to take on a distinctly more hawkish stance on monetary policy). Meanwhile, third quarter earnings reports continue to come in with mixed results.
Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite index saw its biggest sector moves driven not by earnings reports, nor by the apparent near collapse of NAFTA negotiations, but rather by other company-specific headlines. The industrials sector posted the best gains, as shares of Bombardier soared on news of the company’s deal to bring in Airbus as a partner on the all-important CSeries passenger jet program. The health care sector led decliners, for once not because of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Instead it was Canopy Growth Corporation that got smoked. The medical marijuana producer saw a big drop after the TSX said marijuana firms with activities in the United States that might violate the country’s federal law could be subject to delisting. The materials sector was also weak as both base and precious metals declined (with the notable exception of copper). Oil prices started the week higher on fears of new Iran sanctions, and the outbreak of fighting between Iraqi and Kurdish forces near Kirkuk and its oil fields. But by week’s end, higher U.S. fuel inventories helped crude settle back to roughly where it began. The loonie was similarly little moved by the week’s events, but dropped Friday on weaker than expected sales and inflation data.
The S&P 500 Composite index once again touched new all-time highs. Sector strength was seen especially in financial services and health care, driven by strong earnings reports. The real estate and consumer staples sectors led losses, declining as they typically do in the face of rising bond yields. Macro-economic news, including strong manufacturing surveys and a 44-year low in unemployment claims, provided some lift to the broader market, and worries that political infighting will impede or derail attempts at tax reform faded as the U.S. Senate managed to pass a budget resolution.
European stock indices were mostly flat in light of the tension in Spain. Shares in London were further pressured by continuing difficulties in Brexit negotiations, as well as mixed economic news. Although unemployment remains near a multi-decade low, the Office of National Statistics reported that retail sales in the United Kingdom unexpectedly plunged in September. Things were more upbeat in Japan. The Nikkei 225 stock index added to its 20-year high on solid corporate earnings, a weaker yen, and positive sentiment ahead of Sunday’s general election.