TORONTO — The Toronto stock market looked to open little-changed Friday at the end of what is shaping up to be another week of sharp losses, with base metals stocks particularly mauled by a plunge in copper prices.
Energy companies are also lower for the week as oil tries to find support around the US$45 a barrel level.
The Canadian dollar fell 0.52 of a cent Friday morning to 83.06 cents US, its lowest level since late April 2009.
U.S. futures were well into the red as the Dow Jones industrial futures lost 90 points to 17,193, the Nasdaq futures dropped 36.2 points to 4,052.8 and the S&P 500 futures fell 11.6 points to 1,977.5.
Oil prices found some stability this week but only after plunging almost 40 per cent since the end of November, after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ruled out cuts in production to support prices. Overall, prices are down about 55 per cent from the highs of June 2014 amid a huge supply/demand imbalance.
On Friday, the February contract in New York was ahead 84 cents to US$47.09 a barrel.
The TSX energy sector is down about three per cent this week.
There was further evidence of how the collapse in oil prices is affecting oilpatch support firms.
Schlumberger Ltd. said Thursday it has recorded a $296 million charge as it cuts its workforce by 9,000. The oil-services provider didn’t specify whether the reductions had already taken place. It also said that quarterly adjusted earnings came to $1.50 a share, compared with consensus of $1.45 a share. Sales rose six per cent to $12.6 billion, which was in line with analyst expectations. The company is also raising its dividend by 25 per cent, paying 50 cents a share.
Several Canadian energy firms have made deep cuts to their capital spending plans while largely avoiding layoffs. But on Tuesday, Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) said it was cutting 1,000 jobs — mostly employees of its contractors — as it delays a major oil sands project. Suncor also slashed $1 billion from its 2015 budget.
The base metals sector has tumbled 20 per cent after copper prices went into full retreat this week, falling below US$2.49 a pound in the worst performance since the 2008 financial crisis. The slide came amid weak trade data from China and a cut in the World Bank’s estimate for global growth this year.
March copper was off a penny to US$2.55 a pound Friday morning.
Meanwhile, gold prices slipped $3.70 to US$1,261.10 an ounce after five strong days of advances amid expectations that the European Central Bank will move next week to launch its own quantitative easing program, which would involve the massive purchase of bonds. There has also been speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve could delay raising interest rates this year.
Gold also got a strong boost Thursday in the wake of the Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision to scrap its euro currency cap.
On the earnings front, U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs reported a 10 per cent drop in fourth-quarter earnings hurt by a fall in trading activity. The bank earned $2.03 billion, or $4.38 a share, six cents ahead of estimates. Revenues reached $7.69 billion, down from $8.78 billion a year ago but beating expectations for $7.66 billi