Major Gains for N. A. Indexes

Micron, Biogen Also in Focus

Investors appeared Thursday to have shaken off any negative vibes from word the U.S. Federal Reserve was keeping interest rates on the shelf till the end of 2019 at least, and leaped to higher readings.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index strengthened 77.03 points to close Thursday at 16,244.59

The Canadian dollar slipped 0.46 cents at 74.79 cents U.S.

Industrials helped lead the pack, as Canadian National Railway gained $1.95, or 1.7%, to $117.31, while Bombardier powered ahead three cents, or 1.1%, to $2.83.

Tech firms popped some muscle, too, as Shopify spiked $6.64, or 2.5%, to $274.12, while Constellation Software hiked $13.49, or 1.2%, to $1,123.81.

In the consumer discretionary sector, Magna International added 37 cents to $65.52, while Gildan Activewear gained 66 cents, or 1.4%, to $48.76.

Health-care stocks gave a couple of coughs Thursday, as Aurora Cannabis dropped 22 cents, or 1.7%, to $12.81, while Canopy Growth Corporation fell back 69 cents, or 1.1%, to $61.61

Among financials, Manulife trod back 27 cents, or 1.1%, to $22.93, while Scotiabank retreated 35 cents to $72.43.

On the economic beat, Statistics Canada reported the number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits fell to 435,600 in January, down 9,800, or 2.2%, from December.

Also, wholesale trade rose 0.6% to $63.5 billion in January, a second consecutive monthly gain. In volume terms, wholesale sales increased 0.7%.

ON BAYSTREET

The TSX Venture Exchange eked higher 3.24 points to 641.21

All but two of the 12 TSX subgroups were higher, with information technology and industrials each stronger by 1.7%, and consumer discretionary stocks ahead 1.4%

The two laggards were health-care, staggering 0.5%, and financials, docking 0.2%.

ON WALLSTREET

Stocks rose on Thursday as Apple and Micron surged to lead the tech sector higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average spiked 216.84 points to close at 25,962.51, as a 4.2% gain in Apple offset a decline in J.P. Morgan Chase.

The S&P 500 took on 30.65 points, or 1.1%, to 2,854.88

The NASDAQ Composite gained 109.99 points, or 1.4%, to 7,838.96

Apple rose after Needham upgrade the stock to strong buy from buy, citing "value upside" in the firm's ecosystem. Thursday's gains led the stock to break above its 200-day moving average for the first time since November.

Micron shares jumped 9.6% after reporting quarterly earnings that beat analyst expectations.

Biogen tanked more than 29.8% after discontinuing trials for a drug aimed at treating Alzheimer's Disease.

These moves come after a slew of negative commentary from companies like FedEx, BMW and UBS. Earlier this week, FedEx CFO Alan Graf said: "Slowing international macroeconomic conditions and weaker global trade growth trends continue."

Meanwhile, BMW said it is looking to cut $13.6 billion in costs this year while UBS noted the first quarter could be one of its worst ever.

On Wednesday, the Fed said it does not expect to raise rates at all in 2019. The central bank had forecast at least two rate hikes for this year back in December. The Fed added it expects to end its balance-sheet reduction process by the end of September. However, it also lowered its economic growth forecast for 2019.

Equities are on track to post a muted weekly performance, with the major indexes little changed. On top of digesting the Fed's announcement, investors are also grappling with mixed news on the trade front. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Washington's tariffs on Beijing could stay on for a "substantial period of time."

Prices for the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury lost ground, sending yields higher, to 2.54% from Wednesday’s 2.53%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices fell 38 cents to $59.85 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices added $7.30 to $1,309 U.S. an ounce.