North American markets flat to end second-consecutive positive week since virus

TORONTO — North American stock markets were relatively flat Friday to end a second consecutive positive week since being hammered by concerns about the impact of the novel coronavirus.

“It’s been a great week, probably a bit surprising given the continued fears around COVID-19,” said Kevin Headland, senior investment Strategist at Manulife Investment Management, referring to the virus that has killed 1,380 people in China and sickened more than 64,000.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 1.1 per cent over the last five trading sessions after closing up 27.19 points at 17,848.36, less than 25 points off its record high set Wednesday.

U.S. corporate earnings have beaten expectations this quarter. With three-quarters of companies reporting so far, about 72 per cent of them have beat expectations, he said.

“Markets tend to react positively to any type of beat, whether it’s negative, it’s still a beat,” he said in an interview.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 25.23 points at 29,398.08. The S&P 500 index was up 6.22 points at 3,380.16, while the Nasdaq composite was up 19.21 points at 9,731.18.

Markets were in a data tug of war Friday with consumer confidence and industrial production beating expectations and clothing sales plunging 3.1 per cent.

Core retail sales, excluding gas, autos, building materials and food services, were unchanged last month. However the survey was conducted before the coronavirus was fully digested by the U.S. consumer.

“I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens next month or in the next couple of months to see if we see the real contagion effect that this virus is having on the actual fundamental data,” said Headland.

The week has turned out stronger than expected given ongoing concerns about the virus as the number of cases spiked following a change in the way they are counted.

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