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Technology pushes North American stock markets higher, Nasdaq to new record


North American stock markets inched higher Tuesday after U.S. Federal Reserve officials appeared to tone down some of their comments that prompted last week's slide.

First, Federal Reserve of New York president John Williams reaffirmed that interest rate increases are still a ways off in the future.

That "alleviated fears of an earlier-than-expected withdrawal of policy support after last week's hawkish-leaning message from the Fed," said Candice Bangsund, portfolio manager for Fiera Capital.

Investor optimism revived somewhat ahead of congressional testimony from Fed chairman Jerome Powell where he was "widely expected to walk back on some of the hawkish undertones from last week's policy gathering."

"Indeed, his prepared remarks were released last night, where he downplayed the near-term spike in inflation and attributed the latest increase in pricing pressures to transitory factors that should fade over time," she wrote in an email.

Investors are struggling to interpret Fed comments.

Last week, it signalled that interest rates would increase sooner than previously indicated to twice in 2023. A Fed member later suggested the increases could start next year.

Powell told the House select subcommittee on coronavirus crisis that he expects recent increases in inflation will subside soon.

He said Fed had formally begun discussing when and how the central bank might reduce the current US$120 billion a month of Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds that the Fed is purchasing each month. Those purchases are intended to keep longer-term interest rates lower to encourage more borrowing and spending.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 44.29 points to 20,200.65.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 68.61 points at 33,945.58. The S&P 500 index was up 21.65 points to 4,246.44, while the Nasdaq composite was up 111.79 points to 14,253.27.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq set a new record while the sector led Canada's main stock index.

It rose 1.3 per cent as BlackBerry Ltd. climbed 4.6 per cent and Shopify Inc. was 1.5 per cent higher.

Consumer sectors also increased as shares of Canada Goose Holdings Inc. gained 6.7 per cent, while materials rose despite lower gold prices.

Lundin Mining Corp. increased 3.9 per cent while First Quantum Minerals Ltd. was up 3.7 per cent.

The August gold contract was down US$5.50 at US$1,777.40 an ounce and the July copper contract was up 4.6 cents at US$4.23 a pound.

Energy was one of three sectors to lose ground, falling as crude oil prices dipped on reports that OPEC and its allies are contemplating increasing production at its meeting next week.

The August crude oil contract lost 27 cents from its 2 1/2-year high to US$72.85 per barrel and the July natural gas contract was up 6.7 cents at US$3.26 per mmBTU.

Shares of Cenovus Energy Inc. and Whitecap Resources Inc. were down 1.9 and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

The Canadian market underperformed its U.S. counterparts as "energy stocks retreated and weighed more heavily on the resource-levered S&P/TSX," Bangsund added.

The Canadian dollar traded for 80.93 cents US compared with 80.80 cents US on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2021.

With files from The Associated Press. Top Stories

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