TSX Pulls into Green

Superior Plus, AltaGas in Focus

Canada's main stock index retreated from a four-week high on Thursday after a four-day rally, with energy shares leading declines amid lower oil prices.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index recovered 48.59 to greet noon Thursday at 14,853.12

The Canadian dollar dropped 0.17 cents at 75.52 U.S.

Superior Plus gained 15 cents, or 1.5%, to $10.53, after CIBC raised rating on the specialty chemicals firm's shares to "outperform" from "neutral"

AltaGas rose 36 cents, or 2.6%, to $14.09, after the utilities company announced a monthly dividend for its common shares.

New Gold Inc fell 7.5 cents, or 4.7%, to $1.53, the most on the TSX, after the miner announced the departure of one of its board members. Precision Drilling, recovered from earlier weakness and actually three cents, or 1%, to $2.99, after multiple brokerages trimmed their price target on the oilfield services company's stock.

On the economic front, Statistics Canada reported that housing starts were unchanged for a fourth consecutive month in November, while Canadian municipalities issued $8.3 billion worth of building permits in November, up 2.6% from October. Higher construction intentions for commercial buildings drove most of the gain.

ON BAYSTREET

The TSX Venture Exchange inched up 0.36 points to 598.47

All but two of the 12 TSX subgroups were higher midday, as health-care surged 4.9%, energy gushed 0.9%, and real-estate picked up 0.7%.

The two laggards were gold, off 0.5%, and materials, down 0.3%

ON WALLSTREET

Stocks rose on Thursday, but gains were kept in check as disappointing holiday sales from Macy’s and a revenue guidance cut from American Airlines pressured retail and airline shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 33.49 points to 23,912.61,

The S&P 500 gained back 5.21 points to 2,590.17,

The NASDAQ Composite reacquired 15.34 points to 6,872.41. A gain would bring the indexes’ winning streak to five days in a row.

Macy’s shares tanked more than 18 percent — on pace for their worst day every — after reporting its same-store sales grew by just 1.1% in November and December. The company also cut its earnings and revenue forecast for fiscal 2018.

Shares of Kohl’s fell 7.1% while Nordstrom declined 4.8%

Meanwhile, American Airlines fell more than 7% after slashing its revenue growth forecast for the fourth quarter. Shares of Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines all fell at least 2%.

The announcements from Macy’s and American Airlines came as the earnings season for calendar fourth-quarter 2018 is set to ramp up. J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley are among the companies set to report next week.

Fourth-quarter earnings are expected to have risen nearly 15% on a year-over-year basis, but growth is expected to be much lower moving forward. According to Thomson Reuters, first-quarter earnings are forecast to rise as much as 3.9%

Thursday’s moves down took place after delegations from Washington and Beijing ended three days of trade negotiations in China on Wednesday. China’s commerce ministry said Thursday the negotiations were extensive and had helped set up a foundation for further talks.

This week’s face-to-face meetings were the first to take place since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day truce last month.

If both sides are unable to secure a comprehensive trade agreement by March 2, Trump has said he plans to raise tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Prices for the benchmark for the 10-year U.S. Treasury were slightly lower, raising yields to Wednesday’s 2.72%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions

Oil prices were down 12 cents to $52.24 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices were down $2.80 to $1,289.20 U.S. an ounce.