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North American stock markets close higher in highly volatile trading day


TORONTO — North American stocks rallied during a volatile session Thursday with health care and technology rebounding and oil closing higher for a second-straight day.

It was a very choppy session, especially in the United States, where markets swung by more two per cent from losses to gains. In Canada, the difference was more muted at 0.7 per cent, said Giles Marshall, vice-president and portfolio manager at Fiduciary Trust Canada.

With no major macroeconomic reports, the markets reacted to earnings reports and the constant backdrop of trade tensions, he said.

"We're in a period of reassessment," he said, noting that the United States has been one of the few global markets in positive territory for the year until October.

"I think about what 2019 is going to look like and the likelihood for growth, both GDP growth and for earnings growth, to decelerate from pretty high levels."

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 11.76 points to 15,144.88.

The health care sector gained about two per cent as a rebound by Canopy Growth a day after it released results that missed expectations spread to other cannabis producers.

Technology rose as Shopify Inc. gained almost five per cent to $197.87. The key materials and financial sectors also gained ground, while consumer discretionary led on the downside.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 208.77 points to 25,289.27. The S&P 500 index was up 28.62 points at 2,730.20, while the Nasdaq composite was up 122.64 points to 7,259.03.

Apple Inc. partially rebounded from share price losses by closing up 2.5 per cent. Walmart Inc. shares fell two per cent even though the world's largest retailer beat expectations in its quarterly results and boosted its 2019 outlook.

In the backdrop were seemingly positive signs in trade talks between China and the U.S., with the U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer reportedly telling some executives that a planned escalation in January of U.S. tariffs on imported goods from China are now on hold.

"That would be very good news and that would certainly positively impact the S&P 500," said Marshall.

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 75.75 cents US compared with an average of 75.56 cents US on Wednesday. West Canadian Select prices remained weak but West Texas Intermediate increased after an unprecedented 12-day decline.

Crude prices are being buoyed by Saudi Arabia's oil minister last weekend saying that the country plans to cut crude production while OPEC is also considering cuts to shore up prices.

The January crude oil contract was up 24 cents at US$56.68 per barrel and the December natural gas contract was down 80 cents at US$4.04 per mmBTU.

The December gold contract was up US$4.90 at US$1,215 an ounce and the December copper contract was up 3.65 cents at US$2.75 a pound.

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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