TSX and Dow close near record highs as Trump pushes business-friendly agenda

Stocks markets returned to their winning ways on Tuesday as the new U.S. administration laid out more elements of its pro-business stance.

TSX and Dow both within striking distance of all-time highs

The Toronto Stock Exchange rose on Tuesday to within 50 points of its all-time high, set back in 2014. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Stocks markets rose on Tuesday as the new U.S. administration laid out more elements of its pro-business stance.

The Toronto Stock Exchange closed up 130 points at 15,610 and is now less than 50 points from its all-time closing high of 15,657 set in the fall of 2014, before oil prices plummeted from over $100 a barrel to where they are today.

The U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, gained 35 cents US to $53.11 a barrel in New York. Canada's crude oil benchmark, a thicker variant known as Western Canada Select, gained more than half a dollar to $39.43 a barrel. Canadian oil has not been valued at more than $40 US a barrel since the summer of 2015.

The catalyst for crude was President Donald Trump's signing of an executive memorandum to grant conditional approval to two controversial pipelines — the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access — which had been blocked by his predecessor.

The decision is good news for Canadian oil specifically, and by association the Canadian dollar, which gained about half a cent to briefly top 76 cents US before ending the day just below that level.

Meeting with Detroit Big 3

Trump also signalled his desire for U.S. automakers to invest in building more vehicles in America — or face heavy tariffs on the ones they import.

"They used to call some of this jawboning," said David Winters, CEO of Wintergreen Advisers, of the new president's policy of pressuring American companies to hire American workers.

"So far, President Trump has been encouraging companies to do what's in his vision of a successful America."

The new administration's pro-business stance had investors in a buoyant mood, as the Dow Jones once again came within striking distance of 20,000 points. 

Markets have been broadly higher since his election last November. But much of the so-called Trump rally, however, is based on sentiment. It remains to be seen what substantive policies may emerge to improve corporate bottom lines.

"We are now in a phase where the policies need to come to fruition to justify the move we have seen in the post-election period," said Bill Northey, chief investment officer at Private Client Group of U.S. Bank.

Scotiabank's global portfolio advisory group said uncertainty will continue to be the theme until investors have more hard information to digest. "The focus for markets in the near term will clearly be fixated on the new U.S. administration's policy measures, which have already included executive orders to exit TPP trade talks, open NAFTA negotiations, defer portions of Obamacare and impose a federal hiring freeze," the bank said.

"Key for markets will be an agreement on a tax reform package that could include … import taxes and income tax cuts, as well as plans for a fiscal stimulus economic boost."

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters