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Toronto stock index sets 2nd straight record high, Canadian dollar rises


TORONTO — Canada's main stock index hit an all-time record for a second straight trading session, bolstered in part by surging cannabis stocks, as the loonie hit its highest level in nearly three months.

The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 18.82 points to 16,221.95, with shares of pot producers Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX:WEED) and Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH) up 9.51 per cent and 6.51 per cent, respectively, at the closing of markets Thursday.

"It's a quiet time of year, really in terms of volume and market activity, but certainly the influence that the cannabis space has on the TSX this year compared to last year at this time is noteworthy," said Kash Pashootan, CEO and chief investment officer at First Avenue Investment Counsel Inc. in Toronto. 

"All evidence points to the fact that it will continue to become more and more influential on the TSX. ... You're now seeing the cannabis space creep up as a factor that really can't be ignored."

Base metals and energy sectors also helped lead the commodity-heavy TSX higher Thursday.

In commodities, the February crude contract was up 20 cents to US$59.84 per barrel and the February natural gas contract added 18 cents to US$2.91 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract gained $5.80 to US$1,297.20 an ounce and the March copper contract was up two cents to US$3.31 a pound.

"On the commodities side, the $60 mark for oil is meaningful and we're seeing it flirt with that level, and that's unique because we haven't seen that since June of 2015," said Pashootan.

"So that could be a resistance point if oil surpasses or breaks through and can sustain. We can see that as being a driver for optimism about oil prices going into 2018, but that's a big if in terms of breaking that $60 mark and sustaining that level."

South of the border, U.S. stock indexes were up slightly. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 63.21 points to 24,837.51, a record high. The S&P 500 index inched up 4.92 points to 2,687.54 and the Nasdaq composite index added 10.82 points to 6,950.16. 

In currency markets, the Canadian dollar closed at an average trading value of 79.44 cents US, up 0.33 of a U.S. cent. That's the highest level the loonie has been at since Oct. 9.

"The loonie has seen strength from the fact that oil prices have appreciated," Pashootan noted.

 

Follow @DaveHTO on Twitter.

David Hodges, The Canadian Press

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