Energy sector weighs on Toronto stock index as crude oil prices tumble

Toronto’s main stock index fell Monday amid tumbling oil prices as tropical storm Harvey wreaked havoc on energy markets.The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 3.96 points to 15,052.03, with lower shares of oil and gas companies weighing heavily after widespread flooding in Texas forced many refineries on the Gulf Coast to shut down.Surging gold, materials and base metals stocks weren’t enough to overcome the downward pressure from the energy sector.The October crude contract shed $1.30 to US$46.57 per barrel while the December bullion contract climbed $17.40 to US$1,315.30 an ounce.“We’re seeing weakness in crude oil prices, which is really a reflection of the fact that with so many refineries off-line (in Texas) the demand for the feedstock — that being oil — is down a little bit,” said Craig Fehr, a Canadian markets strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.“On the flip side we are seeing a lift in gold prices, which I think is largely a function of the weakness in the U.S. dollar, as opposed to gold surging as some sort of a safe haven trade.”Fehr said a carry-over trend from last week was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s lack of specific, hawkish tone about future U.S. policy at an annual meeting of central bankers, economists and policy makers in Jackson Hole, Wyo.“That really took some of the lustre off the greenback,” he said.The Canadian dollar advanced 0.07 of a U.S. cent, trading at an average price of 80.12 cents US.On Wall Street, major indexes were relatively flat, but mixed.The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 5.27 points to 21,808.40, the S&P 500 index inched up 1.19 points to 2,444.24, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 17.38 points to 6,283.02.Elsewhere in commodities, the October natural gas contract was up four cents to US$2.96 per mmBTU and the September copper contract was up three cents to US$3.06 a pound.Follow @DaveHTO on Twitter. read more

Hong Kong cuts taxes to shore up economy amid protests

Hong Kong’s government has announced tax cuts, higher social welfare payments and other steps to reverse an economic slowdown that has been aggravated by anti-government protests.The territory’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, said Thursday that the official economic growth outlook this year has been cut to zero from 1%, which would be its worst performance since 2009 during the global financial crisis.Hong Kong’s economic growth already was declining before anti-government protests erupted this year. They have disrupted tourism and retailing.Chan said the changes announced Thursday would result in some 1.3 million taxpayers having their taxes waived. He said the government will increase payments for elderly and low-income residents.The Associated Press read more