Business

Stock markets finish flat on 8th anniversary of bull market run

It wasn't much of an anniversary celebration for North American stocks on Thursday, as major indices finished mixed on the day the current bull market's run turned eight years old.

Job reports for both Canada and the United States out tomorrow

The second-longest bull run has now reached its eighth anniversary 0:59

It wasn't much of an anniversary celebration for North American stocks on Thursday, as major indices finished mixed on the day the current bull market's run turned eight years old.

Wall Street's benchmark indices managed only some slim gains, while the S&P/TSX composite index ended slightly in the red as oil prices tumbled.

Supply concerns helped send the benchmark price of North American oil below $50 US a barrel for the first time this year. The price of West Texas Intermediate oil for April delivery dropped by $1 to settle at $49.28 US barrel. A day earlier, crude dropped $2.86, its largest one-day drop in nine months.

With Thursday's drop, oil touched its lowest price since November, back before OPEC countries agreed to reduce production in an effort to shore up prices. 

The catalyst for the latest sell-off appears to have been this week's report from the U.S. Department of Energy indicating that the country's oil reserves grew by eight million barrels last week, a larger rise than analysts had forecast.

With oil sliding, the Canadian dollar was also down against the U.S. dollar. The loonie was lower by 0.08 of a cent at 74.03 cents US. 

North American equity markets's mixed finish of small moves came ahead of the Friday release of employment reports in both Canada and the United States.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed at 15,496.84, down 0.14 of a point.

The benchmark Canadian index did get some support from a jump of almost 10 per cent in the share prices of Canadian Natural Resources to $43.31 after the company announced $12.7 billion in acquisitions, the bulk of which involve Royal Dutch Shell's oilsands holdings.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average added 2.46 points to end at 20,858.19, while the broader S&P 500 was higher by 1.99 points at 2,364.87. The Nasdaq composite finished with a gain of 1.26 points at 5,838.81.

Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, and trader Tommy Kalikas work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 7. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Economists are projecting the report will show that U.S. employers added about 200,000 jobs in February. 

The U.S. employment report comes ahead of an interest rate decision on March 15 by the U.S Federal Reserve. Fed chair Janet Yellen indicated last week that the U.S. central bank would likely boost borrowing costs.

Thursday marked the eighth anniversary of the current bull market on Wall Street. The S&P 500 bottomed out on March 9, 2009, closing at 673.53 points. Since then, the index is up about 250 per cent. The rally is the second-longest on record, surpassed only by the run-up between Oct. 11, 1990 and March 24, 2000, which covered the era of the dot-com bubble.

Canadian markets have been along for Wall Street's ride, to a degree. Over the course of the current bull market, the S&P/TSX composite index is up about 100 per cent, despite two 20 per cent corrections during the time in question.

with files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press