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The close: Wall Street ends wild pandemic year with Dow, S&P 500 at records – The Globe and Mail

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U.S. stocks ended a tumultuous year with the Dow and S&P 500 at records, as the three major U.S. equity indexes notched solid-to-spectacular yearly gains despite an economy upended by the COVID-19 virus as investors looked to a post-pandemic world. But the TSX ended lower, weighed down by energy and materials stocks, even as oil and gold prices rose.

In a year that marked the end of the longest bull market on record as pandemic-induced government lockdowns battered the global economy, equities stormed back, with the S&P 500 climbing more than 66% from its March 23 low, resulting in the shortest bear market in history.

The gains, which sent the Dow and S&P to record highs to close out the year and the Nasdaq to a record earlier this week, were fueled in part by massive fiscal and monetary stimulus put in place to buttress the economy reeling from the coronavirus fallout, as well as progress on a vaccine.

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For the year, the S&P 500 gained about 16%, the Dow roughly 7% and the Nasdaq more than 43%, which marked the biggest yearly gain for the tech-heavy index since 2009. Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite Index ended up a more modest 2.1% for the year.

“For broad indexes, this is a bullish year despite the craziness in the real world,” said Mike Zigmont, head of research and trading at Harvest Volatility Management.

“It feels very much to me like investors have decided the world has changed forever, the coronavirus pandemic was the catalyst and now investors have decided who the winners are and who the losers are and are moving forward.”

Still, data on Thursday was a reminder the economy still has a lengthy recovery ahead as weekly initial jobless claims, while declining for a second straight week to 787,000, remained well above the peak of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

Tech and consumer discretionary were the best performing sectors on the year, while energy, a laggard for the past decade, was once again the weakest of the 11 major S&P sectors on the year en route to its worst yearly performance ever.

Mega-cap companies such as Amazon and Apple helped lift the broad S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, as well as gains in names that have benefited from the “stay-at-home” environment, such as online retailer ETSY Inc and digital payment platform PayPal.

For the session unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 191.34 points, or 0.63%, to 30,600.9, the S&P 500 gained 24.37 points, or 0.65%, to 3,756.41 and the Nasdaq Composite added 23.03 points, or 0.18%, to 12,893.03.

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The Canadian benchmark closed down 112.45 points, or 0.64%, at 17,433.36. Performance was held back by the energy sector declining 1.62% and materials 1.67%, as investors did some year-end book squaring in those sectors.

Near-term expectations of bigger stimulus checks in the U.S. dimmed after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a quick vote on Wednesday to back President Donald Trump’s call to increase COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000 from $600.

Risk assets were able to build on the rally off the March low, adding to gains in November following a U.S. election that investors viewed as likely to result in political gridlock and optimism around vaccines approvals grew, but the momentum stalled on worries over fresh fiscal stimulus and a new, highly infectious COVID-19 variant spreading globally.

All eyes are on two U.S. Senate races in Georgia next week that will determine control of the chamber and influence Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to enact his agenda.

Global crude prices edged higher on Thursday but lost more than a fifth of their value in 2020, as lockdowns to combat the novel coronavirus depressed economic activity and sent oil markets reeling.

Still, Brent and U.S. crude benchmarks have more than doubled from April’s nadir as producers cut output to match weaker demand. News of coronavirus vaccine distributions also bolstered prices in the fourth quarter, helping futures recover to the highest in about 10 months.

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On the last trading day of 2020, Brent rose 17 cents to settle at $51.80 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate rose 12 cents to settle at $48.52 a barrel. Brent fell 21.5% for the year, with WTI falling 20.5%.

U.S. gold futures settled up 0.1%, at $1,895.10.

Reuters, Globe staff

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How Canada's 742531 COVID-19 cases break down by province | News – Daily Hive

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Canada has seen 742,531 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began nearly a year ago in March 2020. Of that total, 64,573 cases are currently active.

As of January 24, Ontario has seen the highest cumulative COVID-19 case count of any province or territory.

Based on data from the federal government, the province has recorded 252,585 virus cases to date.

Quebec has the second-highest case count, with 252,176 reported as of January 24. Alberta follows, with 120,330 total cases.

Ontario COVID-19 cases

Government of Canada

British Columbia has confirmed 63,484 coronavirus cases to date, while Manitoba has seen 28,476 cases, and Saskatchewan has recorded 21,917.

Other parts of the country have seen far fewer cases throughout the pandemic, with some provinces and territories yet to reach 1,000 cumulative cases.

Nova Scotia has reported 1,570 COVID-19 cases since March 2020, and New Brunswick has confirmed 1,104. Newfoundland and Labrador has seen 398 cases as of January 24.

There have been 267 coronavirus cases in Nunavut and 110 in Prince Edward Island. Yukon has reported 70 virus cases to date, and the Northwest Territories has seen 31.

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This Mississauga neighbourhood has one of the highest COVID-19 percent positivity rates in Ontario – insauga.com

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One Mississauga neighbourhood has one of the highest COVID-19 percent positivity rates (percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in the area) in Ontario, according to Toronto-based research group ICES.

ICES provided an overview of the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of individuals in Ontario who tested and confirmed positive for COVID-19 during the week of January 10 to 16.

From January 10 to 16, the Mississauga area with postal code beginning with L5W (area of Derry and Mavis Rd) had one the highest percent positivity rates at 16.9%.

The top 10 Ontario neighbourhoods included five from Peel:

  1. L6P, Brampton at 19.4% (area of Castlemore and The Gore Rd)
  2. L5W, Mississauga at 16.9% (area of Derry and Mavis Rd)
  3. L6T, Brampton at 16.6% (area of Highway 407 from the 410 to Goreway Dr)
  4. L6W, Brampton at 16.0% (area of Steeles Ave East and Kennedy Rd South)
  5. L6R, Brampton at 15.8% (area of Bramalea Rd at Sandalwood Pkwy East)

The rest of the top 10 constituted four neighbourhoods in Toronto and one in York Region.

Three notable findings

According to ICES’ data, Peel had the highest percent positivity (11.7%) out of all of Ontario’s 34 Public Health Units, followed by Toronto and Windsor-Essex County. Ontario’s overall percent positivity was 5.4%.

notable findings

“The percent positivity was relatively lower among persons living in long-term care homes (4.5%), compared to those not living in long-term care (5.5%),” ICES said.

“Twelve FSAs (forward sortation areas) had 15% positivity or greater (within Toronto, Peel, and York), representing a decrease in the number of high-positivity FSAs compared to the week of January 3 (during which twenty four FSAs had greater than 15% positivity). Numerous high-positivity FSAs (L5W, L6W, L6Y, L4T, N4W, M6M, M1C, L4Z, N8H, MU, L4L, M2J, M2R) were also experiencing outbreaks in long-term care homes.”

ICES says percent positivity increased among children over the course of December, but these changes did not always correlate with changes in incidence, likely due in part to decreased testing rates.

Testing rates decreased over the course of December for all age groups, especially for children aged 2-13 years.

The full data is available to read here.

Images courtesy of ICES

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How Canada's 742531 COVID-19 cases break down by province | News – Daily Hive

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Canada has seen 742,531 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began nearly a year ago in March 2020. Of that total, 64,573 cases are currently active.

As of January 24, Ontario has seen the highest cumulative COVID-19 case count of any province or territory.

Based on data from the federal government, the province has recorded 252,585 virus cases to date.

Quebec has the second-highest case count, with 252,176 reported as of January 24. Alberta follows, with 120,330 total cases.

Ontario COVID-19 cases

Government of Canada

British Columbia has confirmed 63,484 coronavirus cases to date, while Manitoba has seen 28,476 cases, and Saskatchewan has recorded 21,917.

Other parts of the country have seen far fewer cases throughout the pandemic, with some provinces and territories yet to reach 1,000 cumulative cases.

Nova Scotia has reported 1,570 COVID-19 cases since March 2020, and New Brunswick has confirmed 1,104. Newfoundland and Labrador has seen 398 cases as of January 24.

There have been 267 coronavirus cases in Nunavut and 110 in Prince Edward Island. Yukon has reported 70 virus cases to date, and the Northwest Territories has seen 31.

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