TSX falls as Powell comments, energy stocks weigh

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By Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) – Canada’s main stock index edged lower on Tuesday as energy stocks weighed on the index, while Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell passed on commenting about the U.S. monetary policy outlook in his keenly awaited speech.

At 1038 a.m. ET (1538 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 84.99 points, or 0.43%, at 19,772.08.

Powell’s eagerly awaited speech to a forum by Sweden’s Riksbank symposium stressed upon the importance of central banks’ independence and congressionally mandated boundaries, while avoiding any comments on rate hikes.

“He wouldn’t say much related to current policy, but that wasn’t really the topic of this particular speaking engagement so it’s not entirely surprising,” said Chhad Aul, chief investment officer and head of multi-asset solutions at SLGI Asset Management Inc.

“But other Fed speakers that we’ve seen will continue to drive the point home that rates are going to stay higher for longer.”

A laggard on the index was the energy sector, down 1.3%.

Gold miners rose 0.7% as spot gold prices gained on a weakening dollar following Powell’s comment.[GOL/]

Equity markets were globally rattled in 2022 as decade-high inflation figures set the Fed and other major central banks on an aggressive rate hike path. The TSX had ended 8.4% lower last year.

Traders see a 72.9% likelihood of the Bank of Canada raising interest rates by 25 basis points at its meeting later this month.

Among single stocks, First Quantum Minerals Ltd edged 0.9% lower after the metal miner said it was in talks with the government of Panama to avoid halting operations at its mine over a contract dispute.

Step Energy Services Ltd’s shares fell 1.8% after the oilfield service company approved a $45 million increase in 2023 capital program.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)