“The Difference Between Death & Taxes Is Death Doesn’t Get Worse” – Will Rogers


North American Markets Close in the Red on Friday
North American markets closed slightly lower Friday in anticipation of the weekend’s meeting of OPEC countries that could culminate in an oil production freeze.  The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 31.09 points at 13,637.20. New York indexes were also in the red as the dip in oil prices dragged down energy companies. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped down 28.97 points to 17,897.46. The broader S&P 500 lost 2.05 points at 2,080.73 with energy stocks being the worst performer by far. The Nasdaq composite dipped by 7.67 points at 4,938.22.  The lacklustre closing figures reflect that little  noteworthy economic data was being released Friday.
Instead, the markets were waiting to react to news from Sunday’s meeting of some members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Doha, Qatar. “Obviously all eyes are on the OPEC meeting this weekend and so there’s some caution,” Carlin said. Reports and rumours earlier in the week that a production freeze was imminent have been dying out, said Carlin, adding that the market views this as a potential risk, which pushed down oil prices slightly ahead of the gathering. The May contract for benchmark North America crude closed down $1.14 at US$40.36 a barrel on Friday, adding to losses of the two previous sessions after the commodity closed above US$42 on Tuesday for the first time since late November. This commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar turned slightly higher after two days of loses. It edged up 0.07 of a U.S. cent to 77.90 cents US. Earlier in the week, the loonie hit a nine-month high, reaching 78.38 cents US on Tuesday after a reported deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to cut oil production sent energy prices higher.


Consumer Spending Up In First Quarter

Consumer spending in Canada grew by 6.24% in the first quarter of 2016 on a year-over-year basis, according to a report by Moneris Solutions Corporation. Following a flat period in 2014, Moneris has recorded six consecutive quarters of positive spending increases. All four quarters of 2015 saw growth of between 5% and 7%. Moneris’ findings this quarter are consistent with positive economic indicators released by Statistics Canada showing GDP growth in January along with an uptick in retail sales and employment increases in March.
Consumer spending rose by 5.89% in January, 9.03% in February and 4.42% in March, compared to the first three months of 2015. All provinces posted year-over-year increases during the quarter, with the exception of Alberta. Nova Scotia posted the largest increase (11.65%) followed by New Brunswick (10.40%).
The oil-producing provinces posted growth below the national average; spending in Alberta declined by 2.99% and Saskatchewan saw an increase of 1.08%.
Credit card spending increased by 8.36% over the first quarter of 2015, holding a 64.66% share of purchases made. Debit sales rose by 2.57%, representing a 35.34% share of total card spending.


Weekly Market Wrap Up as of March 18 2016

North America
The TSX closed at 13637, up 240 points or 1.79% over the past week. YTD the TSX is up 5.00%.
The DOW closed at 17898, up 321 points or 1.83% over the past week. YTD the DOW is up 2.71%.
The S&P closed at 2081, up 33 points or 1.61% over the past week. YTD the S&P is up 1.81%.
The Nasdaq closed at 4938, up 87 points or 1.79% over the past week. YTD the Nasdaq is down -1.38%.
Gold closed at 1236, down 5.00 points or -0.48% over the past week. YTD gold is up 16.71%.
Oil closed at 40.4, up 0.88 points or 2.23% over the past week. YTD oil is up 9.04%.
The USD/CAD closed at 1.282258, down -0.0178 points or -1.37% over the past week. YTD the USD/CAD is down -7.33%.

The MSCI closed at 1672, up 50 points or 3.08% over the past week. YTD the MSCI is up 0.54%.
The Euro Stoxx 50 closed at 3054, up 142 points or 4.88% over the past week. YTD the Euro Stoxx 50 is down -6.55%.
The FTSE closed at 6344, up 140 points or 2.26% over the past week. YTD the FTSE is up 1.63%.
The CAC closed at 4495, up 192 points or 4.46% over the past week. YTD the CAC is down -3.06%.
DAX closed at 10052, up 430.00 points or 4.47% over the past week. YTD DAX is down -6.43%.
Nikkei closed at 16848, up 1026.00 points or 6.48% over the past week. YTD Nikkei is down -11.48%.
The Shanghai closed at 3078, up 93.0000 points or 3.12% over the past week. YTD the Shanghai is down -13.03%.


Sources: Bloomberg; Investment Executive;  advisor.ca,