North American stock markets fall as technology takes hit from higher bond yields

TORONTO — North American stock markets lost some ground midweek as the technology and materials sectors took hits from rising bond yields.

The 10-year U.S. treasury yield rose to 1.48 per cent from 1.4 per cent. That's still below the 52-week high of about 1.6 per cent set last week that caused stock markets to falter.

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Rising bond yields have an influence on investor interest in the tech sector. The sector's elevated valuations can be justified when rates are low but that is thrown by the wayside when they start to rise, says Allan Small, senior investment adviser at HollisWealth,

"Any time you seem to be seeing a little bit higher yields, you're seeing tech stocks roll over and get sold off," he said in an interview.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 100.93 points to 18,320.67.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 121.43 points at 31,270.09. The S&P 500 index was down 50.57 points at 3,819.72, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was down 361.04 points or 2.7 per cent at 12,997.75.

Shopify Inc. was the worst performer on the Toronto index, falling 6.6 per cent as the tech sector lost 3.6 per cent and BlackBerry Ltd. was down nearly three per cent.

Health care, materials and utilities were also lower.

Shares of cannabis producers decreased with Canopy Growth Corp. down 5.4 per cent and Aurora Cannabis Inc. off 4.9 per cent.

Lower metals prices pushed the metals and mining sector down 1.3 per cent with MAG Silver Corp. decreasing 6.5 per cent and Silvercorp Metals Inc. off 5.1 per cent.

The April gold contract was down US$17.80 at US$1,715.80 an ounce and the May copper contract was down eight cents at US$4.14 a pound.

Industrials also dipped despite a 3.4 per cent increase in Air Canada shares.

The Canadian dollar traded for 79.17 cents US compared with 79.20 cents US on Tuesday.

Energy was the big winner on the day, gaining 2.2 per cent on higher crude oil prices with Vermilion Energy Inc. up 5.7 per cent and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. four per cent higher.

The April crude oil contract was up US$1.53 at US$61.28 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was down 2.3 cents at nearly US$2.82 per mmBTU.

Hope that OPEC will decide at its upcoming meeting to continue to keep a lid on production helped crude. But the key driver is an expected growth in demand from economic re-openings, especially in the U.S. and China.

Sentiment was buoyed by President Joe Biden announcing that the full U.S. vaccine supply will be availably by May, two months earlier than expected.

"That is probably the most powerful statement that we have heard in many months," said Small, saying it supports anticipation of higher inflation and increased bond yields.

"You figure that if the U.S. opens, the hope is that their partners to the north, Canada, won't be far behind, although we seem to be falling further and further behind on the vaccination front."

Infections and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically, prompting some U.S. states to lift restrictions entirely.

Friday's U.S. employment numbers for February could increase the pressure to reopen businesses, said Small.

"I've heard many people say to me, they're hoping for a bad number come Friday, maybe that would be a further catalyst to get things moving."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:MAG, TSX:SVM, TSX:ACB, TSX:WEED, TSX:AC, TSX:SHOP, TSX:BB, TSX:VET, TSX:CNQ, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

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