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North American stocks fall again as businesses look to hit pause, loonie down – CTV News



Trading on Canada’s main stock index was temporarily halted for the third time in the past week over steep losses as investors assess efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The S&P/TSX composite index triggered a circuit-breaker after opening down 11 per cent or more than 1,800 points. It partially recovered in early afternoon trading to be off 8.1 per cent or 1,111.14 points at 12,605.19.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 1,906.80 points or 8.2 per cent at 21,278.82. The S&P 500 index was down 211.74 points at 2,459.28, while the Nasdaq composite was down 626.16 points at 7,248.07.

The markets fell after the Federal Reserve over the weekend joined the Bank of Canada in again cutting interest rates.

“This is still a market that is pricing in not just a garden variety recession but the possibility of something worse,” said Frances Donald, global chief economist and head of macro strategy for Manulife Investment Management.

That could include protracted weak economic activity that looks like a credit crisis if defaults start to rise.

“We have so little visibility into what the economy will look like next and let’s remember the stock market is trying to get a sense of what earnings will look like,” she said in an interview.

The shape of earnings won’t be known until novel coronavirus cases start to slow.

In the meantime, the TSX is down about 29 per cent from its Feb. 20 high while the S&P 500 is down 27 per cent and the Dow nearly 29 per cent.

“The relative under performance of the Canadian stock market reflects our out-sized representation of the energy sector. The two weakest sectors in the TSX are the energy and financial sectors,” Sherry Cooper, chief economist of Dominion Lending Centres, wrote in a note.

She said the banks are highly capitalized and much more resilient than during the financial crisis despite a loss of confidence in these extraordinary times.

“Some are calling for a full shutdown of the stock markets — but imagine the panic if no one could sell assets. There would truly be a run on the banks. Now is not a time to panic.”

The Canadian dollar traded for 71.47 cents US compared with an average of 71.94 cents US on Friday.

The weakness in the loonie to a four-year low comes as investors increasingly seek shelter in the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen on concerns about the economic impact of COVID-19, policy responses in Western Europe and the spread of events, restaurants and stores shutting down in North America, said Tom Nakamura, vice-president and portfolio manager, currency strategy at AGF Investments Inc.

“There’s also market concern about the Canadian economy and whether we have enough policy tools and we have enough fiscal space to be able to combat these kind of dual shocks to our system,” he said.

Nakamura said the loonie’s decrease has little to do with Friday’s rate cut by the Bank of Canada since a reduction was already priced-in, even if it did come sooner than expected.

He added that the Canadian dollar could still shed some more value until there’s signs that the virus cases have peaked.

The April crude contract was down US$2.45 at US$29.28 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was down five cents at US$1.82 per mmBTU.

The April gold contract was down US$29.40 at US$1,487.30 an ounce and the May copper contract was down 7.9 cents at US$2.385 a pound.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2020


This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated the Bank of Canada’s key interest rate target.

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Canada's Big Five banks cut prime rates for third time in a month –



Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal have cut their prime lending rates 50 basis points to 2.45 per cent from 2.95 per cent in a move matching the Bank of Canada’s latest interest rate cut.

It’s the third significant cut to the prime rate in less than three weeks, following a pair of 50 basis point cuts on March 16 and March 5.

The prime rate underpins a slate of variable-rate loans, including mortgages, and thus impact the cost of borrowing for a range of financial products.

BoC emergency rate cut in 90 seconds

The Bank of Canada has made a second unscheduled cut to its benchmark interest rate, lowering it to 0.25 per cent amid the COVID-19 crisis.

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Buy Alert: 2 Bank Stocks on Sale Today – The Motley Fool Canada



Canadian bank stocks have received a lot of attention in recent weeks. The top financial institutions in the country have seen their stocks fall victim to the global selloff. Markets were volatile again on March 27, as investors continue to fear the long-term impacts of the economic shutdown.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is reportedly weeks away from its peak in the United States and Canada, which makes it impossible to predict when the ongoing lockdowns will end.

These conditions are worrisome. The longer the lockdowns go on, the longer it will take for normalcy to return. Investors should not expect a snap back to regularity when these lockdowns do eventually end.

With that in mind, let’s look at two bank stocks that are worth dipping into in April. These equities offer long-term promise, and both boast attractive dividends.

National Bank

National Bank (TSX:NA) stock was down 8% in early afternoon trading on March 27. Its shares have dropped 26% month over month. The bank stock enjoyed an uptick over the past week, but a return to volatility may threaten this return to normal.

When we look at bank stocks right now, investors should consider dollar cost averaging in order to mitigate the risks of higher volatility.

In the first quarter of 2020, National Bank posted net income growth in each of its major segments. As it stands today, we may as well throw these results out the window. Economists are predicting a sharp and brutal contraction, and bank stocks will likely be hard hit.

As it stands today, National Bank possesses a favourable price-to-earnings ratio of 7.6 and a price-to-book value of 1.4. Moreover, the bank boasts an immaculate balance sheet. The stock last paid out a quarterly dividend of $0.71 per share, representing a strong 5.2% yield.


Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) shares were down 5.6% in early afternoon trading on March 27. The stock has dropped 19% over the past month. Earlier this month, I’d discussed why Scotiabank’s Latin American exposure was reason for optimism in this uncertain environment.

The bank’s Global Wealth Management and Global Banking and Markets segments put together a strong first quarter. Adjusted net income rose 12% year over year to $306 million in Global Wealth Management and it increased 35% to $451 million in Global Banking and Markets.

Unfortunately, Latin America is just beginning to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. While Brazil’s government has sought to press on with business as usual, it’s receiving considerable pushback from the populace.

Shares of Scotiabank last possessed a favourable P/E ratio of 8 and a P/B value of 1.1. Scotia also has a flawless balance sheet, which makes it a stable choice going forward even in the face of this unprecedented economic shutdown. Banks can also take solace in government action that has allowed clients to defer payments and avoid mass defaults.

Scotia last paid out a quarterly dividend of $0.90 per share, which represents a tasty 6.2% yield.

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Fool contributor Ambrose O’Callaghan has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA.

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Saudis not bowing to Trump admin pressure to end oil price war –



Saudi Arabia said on Friday that it was not in talks with Russia to stablise crude prices despite overtures from Moscow and rising pressure from Washington to call a truce in an oil price war.

A three-year supply pact between the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies led by Russia fell apart earlier this month after Moscow refused to support Riyadh’s plan for deeper production cuts to offset dwindling demand resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Saudi Arabia responded to the breakdown in relations by lowering the prices it charges for crude and pledging to pump oil next month at record levels. 


The resulting supply boost has coincided with plummeting demand as governments around the world implement national lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The twin-pronged assault on prices has sent Brent crude to a 17-year low below $25 a barrel and hammered the income of oil producers.

“There have been no contacts between Saudi Arabia and Russia energy ministers over any increase in the number of OPEC countries, nor any discussion of a joint agreement to balance oil markets,” an official from Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry said, referring to the wider grouping of oil producers.

The comment came after a senior Russian official said on Friday that a larger number of oil producers could cooperate with OPEC and Russia, in an indirect reference to the United States, the world’s biggest producer, which has never cut production.

“Joint actions by countries are needed to restore the [global] economy … They [joint actions] are also possible in the OPEC deal’s framework,” said Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Dmitriev and Energy Minister Alexander Novak were Russia’s top negotiators for the previous pact between OPEC and its allies – a grouping known as OPEC+.  That deal officially expires on March 31. Dmitriev declined to say which nations could be included in a new one. 

The alliance between OPEC and Russia broke down after Moscow declined to support bigger output curbs, arguing that it was too early to estimate the pandemic’s impact.

Officials and oil executives in Russia have been split on the need for cuts, with Dmitriev and Novak supporting cooperation while Igor Sechin, the head of Kremlin oil major Rosneft, has criticised supply cuts for providing a lifeline to the less competitive US shale industry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said little since the OPEC deal collapsed.

‘Economic warfare’

The idea of Washington cooperating with OPEC has long been seen as impossible, not least because of US antitrust laws. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed anger with the cartel because its actions lead to higher prices at the pump.

However, Saudi Arabia’s latest move has put Washington in a difficult position. Its battle for market share has led to very low prices, but also undermined the US shale industry, which has much higher costs than Saudi or Russian production.

The US administration is facing multiple calls to save the highly leveraged shale industry, which has borrowed trillions of dollars to allow the country to become a large oil and gas exporter despite often uncompetitive costs.

A group of six US senators wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week saying Saudi Arabia and Russia “have embarked upon economic warfare against the US” and were threatening US “energy dominance”.

They called on Saudi Arabia to quit OPEC, reverse its policy of high output, partner with the US in strategic energy projects or face consequences.

“From tariffs and other trade restrictions to investigations, safeguard actions, sanctions, and much else, the American people are not without recourse,” the senators, including John Hoeven of North Dakota and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said in a letter.

Two other senators from oil-producing states introduced a bill on Friday that would remove US armed forces from the kingdom.

Trump last week said he would get involved in the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia at the appropriate time.

US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, meanwhile, told Bloomberg TV on Monday that forging a US-Saudi oil alliance was one of “many, many ideas” being floated by US policymakers.

The head of the International Energy Agency, an adviser to the US and other industrialised countries, on Thursday also called on Saudi Arabia to help stabilise the market.

Algeria, which holds the OPEC presidency at present, has called for a meeting of the group’s Economic Commission Board to be held no later than April 10 to discuss current oil market conditions.

Reuters news agency

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