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Stock Markets Soared This Week, But Canada's Rally Ended With A Whimper

The New York Stock Exchange just closed out its best week this year, but the Toronto Stock Exchange's rally fizzled Friday, ending a five-day winning streak.

Energy and financial stocks led the Toronto stock market to a slight decline, even as oil prices hovered around the US$50 a barrel mark.

The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 14.30 points to close at 13,964.36 after having soared more than 600 points in the week's first four trading days.

Meanwhile the oil-sensitive loonie was up 0.48 of a U.S. cent at 77.30 cents US amid general U.S. dollar weakness.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.74 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 17,084.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.46 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,014.89 and the Nasdaq composite rose 19.68 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,830.47.

The S&P 500 ended the week up 3.3 per cent, its best week since mid-December. Global markets also had a strong week, with markets in Germany and France rising more than 5 per cent. In Asia, markets in Japan, China and Hong Kong are up roughly 4 per cent each.

Most of the gains this week came immediately following the release of last week's disappointing U.S. jobs report, which sent a signal to investors that the Federal Reserve would hold pat on raising interest rates at least for several more months. That signal was reinforced Thursday, when the minutes from the September Fed meeting showed policymakers are too concerned about low inflation and the slowdown in China to raise interest rates.

Investors are now positioning themselves for corporate earnings, which pick up steam next week with most of the nation's largest banks report their results, as well as big companies like Intel, Netflix, UnitedHealth and General Electric. Earnings are expected to be down roughly 5.5 per cent from a year ago, according to FactSet, mostly because of a sharp drop in commodity prices.

``Earnings are going to dominate the next few weeks. Once we get guidance from Corporate America, investors will be reasonably more confident about getting back into the market,'' said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.

The price of U.S. oil edged higher Friday. Benchmark crude oil rose 20 cents to close at $49.63 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, which is used to price international oils, slipped 40 cents to $52.65 a barrel in London.

In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, wholesale gasoline rose 0.9 cents to close at $1.417 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.1 cents to close at $1.591 a gallon and natural gas rose 0.4 cents to close at $2.502 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— The Associated Press, with files from The Canadian Press

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