Jobs figures, tariff exemptions push Toronto, U.S. markets into the green

North American markets rallied today on U.S. jobs figures and a Canadian reprieve from U.S. President Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, March 8, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

North American markets rallied Friday on strong U.S. jobs figures and a Canadian reprieve from U.S. President Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum.

The much-anticipated job figures showed U.S. employers added 313,000 jobs in February, while the hourly wage grew a low-than-expected 2.6 per cent compared to a year ago.

The hiring showed continued strength in the economy while the wage growth — lower than the 2.9 per cent reported a month ago — tempered inflation fears, said Manulife Asset Management portfolio manager Cavan Yie.

"The jobs data was very very positive, and in combination with that, the wage or inflation data was also positive in that it was lower than expected. So we're not seeing the same level of wage growth that we saw in the previous month.

"The markets sold off several weeks ago on the fears of higher-than-expected inflation, and what that meant for company margins and the fed potentially raising more than expected this year," said Yie.

The job numbers, along with Trump indefinitely exempting Canada and Mexico from the metal tariffs, helped U.S. markets recover from recent losses.

Canada also posted positive jobs numbers Friday. The economy added 15,400 net new jobs last month and the unemployment rate edged down to 5.8 per cent — but the gains were due to a surge in part-time work that offset a heavy decline in full-time positions.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 440.53 points to 25,335.74. The S&P 500 index was up 47.60 points to 2,786.57 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 132.86 points to a record close of 7,560.81.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 39.11 points to 15,577.81, led by energy and materials.

The Canadian dollar closed at 77.88 cents US, up 0.52 of a US cent. The loonie got a boost after Canadian industries learned they would be exempt from the tariffs, said Yie.

"There was a huge relief rally in the loonie, reflecting Canada's exemption from aluminum and steel tariffs. The loonie had taken quite a dive in the face of those comment initially as Canada as well all know is a major steel exporter to the U.S."

The April crude contract closed up $1.92 US to $62.04 US per barrel and the April natural gas contract was down two cents at $2.73 US per mmBTU.

The April gold contract ended up $2.30 US to $1,324 US an ounce and the May copper contract was up six cents to $3.14 US a pound.